OTISFIELD, MAINE | This summer, Seeds of Peace initiated a new Seeds of Peace program for educators called “Narratives; Moral Imagination; Educational Action.” The course was the first of its kind, a Camp session like never before, and offered a unique opportunity for a broad range of Seeds of Peace Educators to focus on the values and skills at the heart of Seeds of Peace.
From July 27 to August 10, 42 educators from around the world—teachers, secondary school administrators, policy-makers, academics, community leaders, and peace-builders of many kinds—gathered at the Seeds of Peace Camp by the shores of Maine’s Pleasant Lake.
Participants included Afghan, American, Egyptian, Jordanian, Indian, Israeli, and Pakistani educators—veteran Delegation Leaders (graduates of the Seeds of Peace summer program for educators) along with older Seeds who have become educators and graduates of regional Seeds of Peace educator programs.
The course objectives were to inspire and support educators dedicated to empowering leaders of the next generation to create a more peaceful future and to enlarge and strengthen the Seeds of Peace educator network.
Participants engaged in an intense program tailored to the diverse needs of the group. There were lectures and small group discussions, workshops, role-playing, trips off Camp, and experiential learning of all kinds, including group challenges on the high ropes.
The educators learned ways to teach about the narratives that shape identity. They learned ways to encourage perspective taking and cross-cultural understanding; to enlarge the scope of empathy; and to encourage mutual respect, active learning, critical thinking, dialogue, leadership, civic engagement, and a commitment to pluralism and positive social change. They shared best practices, gained skills and made connections. They created educational action plans that integrated course themes into their own work. Participants led yoga classes in the morning; they shared resources and best educational practices and engaged in interfaith dialogue in the afternoons.
Guest faculty members from preeminent organizations and institutions such as Facing History and Ourselves, The Consensus Building Institute, Public Narratives (from Harvard University’s Kennedy School) and George Mason University’s Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution visited Camp to share their resources and practices. Participants met with local peace-builders and community leaders from Portland, Maine, and Boston.
Throughout the two weeks, participants and faculty members explored issues of common concern—educational issues that are the same whether in Lahore or Mumbai, Kabul, Jenin or Tel Aviv, Amman, Cairo, New York City, or Portland. At the same time, they enjoyed and learned from their own rich diversity in educational experience, in religion, in culture, in language, in age.
Because the session coincided with Ramadan, dinners were scheduled for late evenings, after the sun went down. Toward the end of the course, participants worked together to prepare a multicultural feast.
“Narratives; Moral Imagination; Educational Action” created and strengthened connections among educators. This course is the foundation for a new Seeds of Peace Educator Program.
After the course finished, one participant, an older Seed who has become an educator, wrote:
“Back after 10 years of growth to an unforgettable experience that teaches you everything about yourself, people and life … and you’re never the same again.”