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Bryant Montessori in Tacoma, WA Turns a Peace Site into a Thriving School-Wide Peace Program

posted Nov 4, 2010, 9:13 PM by Dan Thiede   [ updated Nov 4, 2010, 9:54 PM ]
The Bryant Peace Committee is a group of students, teachers and parents who create and implement programs that promote peace within themselves, their school, their community and their world. Kim Ebert-Colella, Parent Volunteer at Bryant Montessori and recipient of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, tells all about an effort that began with a peace pole, and has grown into a truly amazing school-wide peace program.

Kim Ebert-Colella, winner of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize, is backed up Friday by Bryant Montessori School's student Peace
Committee, a group that has done notable charitable work. Ebert-Colella says every person can become a powerful peacemaker.
Photo by Drew Perine, Staff photographer, The News Tribune.

Our Peace program was started as the result of a Disco Party for Peace that was the dream of 8 year old, Sam Colella. In 2007, Sam had his Disco Party and raised over $15,000 for children affected by war in Iraq, Sudan and Liberia, and to provide peace education materials for his own school, Bryant Montessori. A Peace Committee was formed in 2008 and students, parents and staff worked together to create a peace program at Bryant.

We kick off each year by rededicating ourselves as an International Peace Site at an assembly the Peace Committee creates for the International Day of Peace on September 21st. As a Peace Site we commit to the following:
  • Protect the environment
  • Promote intercultural understanding and Celebrate diversity
  • Seek peace within ourselves and others
  • Reach out in service
  • Be responsible citizens of the world
At the assembly, each child creates a written or drawn expression of their commitment to be a peaceful citizen, and each classroom creates a peace pledge, which every child in the classroom signs and then 1 or 2 students present their classrooms pledge to the school at the assembly. Afterwards the pledge is installed in their classroom. This has been a great way to begin our year and to clearly set our intention and rededicate ourselves as an International Peace Site.

Each year our students choose a focus topic and a continent which we then introduce at the Peace Assembly. We create our program around that focus and implement the focus topic on a personal, school-wide, community and global level. One of our goals is to choose a topic that our students may take for granted--like education--and then create the opportunities to learn about the privilege and gift it really is and how the topic relates to peace.

During the 2008-2009 school year, as we began our program, our focus was on Peace through Education. We accomplished the following:
  • We landscaped the front of our school to create a peace garden
  • Peace Banners were created that hang from the ceiling and go down our main hallway by our pre-k and kindergarten children
  • We dedicated ourselves as Tacoma's first International Peace Site
  • We created a peace pole for our peace garden that stands over 6 feet tall and says, "May Peace Prevail on Earth" in 12 languages. The languages represent the heritage of the children in our school and the children in our neighborhood
  • We created an assembly for World Peace Day that has become an annual ritual. It is held each year on or around Sept. 21st.
  • Each house created a banner to  represent one of our values as a peace site.  The banners represent: Love, To Protect the Environment, To Promote Cultural Understanding, and to Seek Peace Within Ourselves and Others. These banners lead the peace parade at our dedication and now hang in our peace garden
  • We started an after school peace committee program for students
  • At the urging of 10 year old, Nurhan Sezgin, we started a Pennies for Peace Campaign and raised $9,000.00 to build a school in Afghanistan by collecting pennies
In 2009-10 the students chose water as our focus. Our goals were to rededicate our school as an International Peace Site, to create a culture of kindness in our school by implementing a kindness campaign, and to promote an  environmental focus on "Clean Water for All." We accomplished the following:
  • We started a kindness campaign in our school. The students a kindness box that sits in the main office. Every classroom has forms available. When a student catches someone going out of their way to be kind, they report them by filling out a "You were caught being kind" form. Once it is filled out they put it in the Kindness Box in the main office. Each week the peace committee collects the forms and creates a card for the student thanking them for the specific act they did to promote kindness, and the principal acknowledges highlights a few of the actions and the students who made them, over the intercom.
  • We created our own green cleaning supplies, an all purpose spray and a creamy soft scrub that we sell to support our program.
  • We made a peace dove out of 6 twin sheets, that has a wing span of 21 feet.  This peace dove led our Parade of the Species on Earth Day and is used as a focal point in our assemblies as well as at community events.
  • We took twelve of our peace committee members to a gathering at UW Tacoma to meet and listen to a Delegation of Japanese survivors of the Atomic Bomb.  Our students made peace doves that the presented the delegation.  Afterwards UW installed their Peace Pole and our students were part of the celebration with their giant peace dove.
  • We raised over $6000.00 to provide clean water and a school vegetable garden to the children of Las Maratos, Bolivia with Etta Projects by selling our green cleaning supplies, garden bulbs and plant starts, by starting an after school store on the playground each Friday and selling bug necklaces and organic suckers and by having a school wide coin drive.
We applied for and were awarded a $2,500 splash grant by the city of Tacoma.  We utilized these funds to accomplish the following:
  • Over 275 elementary age students  visited Puget Creek watershed to deepen their understanding of the connection between what we put down our storm drains and watershed health.  One of our 5th grade students asked his teacher, "Are we still in Tacoma?"
  • We purchased 4 rain barrels for our school gardens.  Our children's house, Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary and Middle School were each given a rain barrel to design and paint.  These beautiful works of art were presented to the school on World Water Day and the afterwards installed on our school in time Approximately 450 children were involved in this project.
  • Envirochallenger presented Down the Storm Drain: Where does the flow go?  to over 125 students.
  • The students and adults of the Bryant Peace Committee planned, organized and implemented a World Water Day Assembly for the 450 students and 50 staff members of our school.
  • We implemented an Earth Day Garden and Water Festival and Parade of the Species.
  • Our Earth Day garden party was open to the greater community.  We had over 700 people attend and Over 40 vendor, activity and information booths educated and supported healthy garden practices.
  • Middle School students ran information booths and activities  that showed examples of water cohesion and adhesion.
  • Students and their families  made 10 worm compost bins. Families then took home the worm bins to foster them for the school. The compost will be used for our school garden.      We sent home weekly articles on water health to the 425 student families and we put a flyer that included the Salmon friendly gardening tips in the mailboxes of 400 homes.
  • We purchased books, school aquatic field guides, classroom aquifer models, music cds and videos for our classrooms and school library to increase student awareness of water health.
  • We purchased materials and built a 3 tier garden compost and tools for our school composting project.
  • Working with a local artist we created a watershed mosaic.
  • We organized a Parade of the Species for Earth Day in which our giant peace dove led parents, students, staff, and neighbors around our hilltop neighborhood dressed as their favorite animals and carrying signs promoting protection of our watersheds.
For the 2010-11 school year, the peace committee students have chosen Nutrition as their focus. To date we have:
  • Provided Leadership training to 6 middle school students,
  • Enrolled 30 students in our weekly afterschool peace program
  • Organized a family Harvest for Health Dance at which we will kick off our
  • Healthy Food Drive for Tacoma's Food Connection
  • Designed and implemented and International Peace Day Assembly and rededicated ourselves as an International Peace Site,
  • Started a tea garden in our school garden to provide herbal tea to classrooms.
  • Began collecting recipes for a Healthy Kids Cookbook
  • Bagged up over 500 individual servings of a protein mix for the Food Connections Back Pack Program
  • Provided an after school class on non-violent communication training to the students in the peace committee
Other goals for the year include:
  • Producing and selling a Healthy Kids Cookbook
  • Promoting healthy snacks in our school and at school events
  • Raising $5000.00 for Heifer Project in Africa
  • Attending the Desmond Tutu event in May at the Tacoma Dome
  • Organizing and Implementing an Earth Day Garden Fair and Parade of the Species
  • Publish a monthly article on healthy food choices
  • Purchasing, Painting and installing 4 more rain barrels on our school.
  • Implement a compassionate schools and/or a non-violent communication program in our school
Our funding comes from the original fund created by the Disco Party for Peace, our fundraisers and Friday Store.   The funding for the garden fair comes from the City of Tacoma's Splash Grant Program.

Long term goals of the Peace Committee include:
  • To seek out funding to provide neighborhood children ages 3-5 scholarships to attend our pre-school.  These scholarships would allow these children to get a head start in the Montessori method, and insure them placement in our school for elementary and middle school. This is so important. Although our school is a public school, pre-school is tuition based in this district. This then becomes a justice issue, because many of the famlies in our neighborhood cannot afford the tuition.  This put their children at a disadvantage because the children whose parents could pay for preschool are much more advanced by kindergarten.  We need scholarships for our neighborhood children to be a part of a culture of peace, to get the opportunities for learning and to give them the tools to be successful learners at a young age.
  • To buy the store across the street from the school.  This store is a gathering place for illegal activity.  We would like to see it become a tea house that serves whole grain baked goods and healthy soups and creates a meeting place for parents and neighbors.
  • To provide the opportunity for our youth leaders to attend the Nobel Festival in St. Paul, MN.  This festival is held in St. Paul, MN each spring.  It brings students together to learn more about being peacemakers, the Nobel Peace Program and to hear from the previous year's Nobel Peace Laureate.
  • To encourage and support other Tacoma schools in becoming International Peace Sites.
  • Improving our school garden by purchasing a green house and using it to grow vegetables for our school cafeteria.
I was recently honored to be the 2010 Laureate of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize! Watch the video below of me accepting the award. You can read an article about the award here and watch the video below.

For more information on me or my program, visit or go to my blog at You should also feel free to contact me directly:

Kim Ebert-Colella
Bryant Montessori
Parent Volunteer
Peace Committee Coordinator

Follow in The Bryant Peace Committee's footsteps by dedicating a peace site at your school, place of worship, garden, or other community center. Click here to learn more about peace sites, and click here to see a map of peace sites across the United States.