VIENNA - Jackson Middle School students are receiving a holiday lesson on diversity and acceptance through "The Peace Tree" project.
The Peace Tree Project is a peace initiative originating in Toronto, Canada, in response to the powerful message delivered in the film, "The Peace Tree."
Produced by Mitra Sen through Sandalwood Productions & Harmony Movement, the film portrays the thoughts and dreams of two children of different cultures and faiths who share a vision of peace without bias or prejudice. As they struggle to overcome resistance, they create a unique symbol, the Peace Tree, which highlights symbols from all cultures promoting peace.
Photo by Michael Erb
Sixth-graders Ben Barbarito, left, and Carly Scholl hang paper Peace Cranes on a tree in the front hallway of Jackson Middle School as part of “The Peace Tree” project.
Photo by Michael Erb
Sixth-grader Michael Gagnon, left, is taught how to make a paper Peace Crane by classmate Eliza Siefert as part of “The Peace Tree” project at Jackson Middle School.
Jackson Middle School is one of only two schools in the United States with permission to use the Peace Tree project.
Barb McCullough, a teacher at Jackson, developed the lessons after securing special permission from Mitra Sen to adapt the project to the school's S.T.A.R. (Students Taking Active Responsibility) program.
"After several emails and phone calls, I gained express permission to modify The Peace Tree Program to fit with Jackson's S.T.A.R. lessons, which strand into themes of pride and heritage, family relationships, anti-bullying and conflict resolution, and peace and the language of peace," McCullough said.
The lessons begin with all faculty and students viewing the inspirational film, "The Peace Tree." Subsequent lessons involve students making origami paper Peace Cranes, with the help of JMS Art Honors students.
The school's hallway Christmas trees are adorned with the Peace Cranes, the universal symbol for peace. The curriculum also includes a series of "My Culture/My Heritage" activities from the Peace Tree materials and discussions about peace, respect and diversity.
The Peace Tree film and lessons serve to validate students' beliefs, customs, similarities and differences while fostering a climate of peace and acceptance at Jackson Middle School, McCullough said.
"It's not your typical Christmas story, but it's an important message," said school counselor Cathy Grewe. "We certainly are living in a day and time when it doesn't hurt to focus on peace."