Citizenship and Peace Education

Citizenship and peace education have a transformative effect as they build communities of engaged and conscious learners. What is your experience in leading projects working in this field? What are the challenges faced and the solutions you found to overcome them? 

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Loreto Apreza's picture
Loreto Apreza
After living the program in the schools with teachers and kids, I totally agree with Andrea and Gilda: S4S is changing lives and practices because the program builds peace and creates the sense of community. This results are due to S4S aims the key points of citizen education are to generate critical thinking, dialogue, participation, commitment and the practice of civic values to achieve a thorough transformation of the world’s current critical condition. The play experience in S4S becomes an educative methodology. Through its recreational activities, children practice civic values and act autonomously to establish peaceful social relations, and propose solutions to local common issues. In other words there is a strong correlation between play itself and the exercise of citizenship for peace. This methodology goes beyond the repetition of abstract content or stereotyped practices of day to day in school environments, and by which, the Civics courses have not been successful on citizen and peace education. In addition, S4S promotes the formation of change agents and a sense of community. By achieving this objective, children develop new ways in which they interact, think, act, and commit to their local/global context.
reply - Jun 14, 2016
Gilda Colin's picture
Gilda Colin
Sports for Sharing (S4S) is an inspiring organization that is not only changing the lives of young people around the world, but is also embarking on a more ambitious and transformative journey: it is changing culture. In my experience a project like S4S touches on several dimensions that a key for an educational system to work and spark change in communities nationwide. First, this project redefines education and the role of it in children’s lives. It is no longer about textbooks but about experiences, it goes beyond the classroom and into open spaces where magic happens, memorization is overtaken by imagination, play and possibilities. Education understood from the S4S perspective enables children to dream bigger and connect with a larger world while staying healthy and active, but more importantly, it inspires children to connect body, mind and heart to take action on problems that matter to them to make a difference. Empowering young citizens since they are that young can certainly be life changing for kids and their families. However, the impact of this project is more impressive when we think about what this represents for a country. A child that believes that he or she can bring about change, will always strive to make a difference in the whatever setting he or she is placed. This form of education encourages children to strengthen their self-concept and self-esteem by allowing them not only to think but also to do. Imagine what could be possible if a country were to transform its self-concept and confidence, truly believing that that it can offer better living conditions to its citizens. Another element worth touching on is the fact that SFS makes education fun and engaging, making it meaningful and interesting for children to actually be there. Although school dropouts are a multidimensional problem, the lack of interest and engagement in school is certainly a reason for students to dropout. As research points out, school abandonment results in even larger problems, such as unemployment, poverty, violence and chronic health problems, among many others. By making education relevant and fun, and by helping students define their purpose, a project like SFS can prevent students to dropout as they get older, thus contributing significantly to a country’s development and wellbeing. SFS makes a bet on a different type of education, on a new way of thinking about teaching and learning, but it also makes a bet on making a sustainable difference in communities around the world.
reply - Jun 07, 2016
Andrea Zuniga's picture
Andrea Zuniga
I'm really interested in learning more about how these strategies are applied in schools and after-school programs. What I love in learning about this program, is how play is combined with not only learning about civic engagement, but also engaging in the creation of a process to make one's community better, based on the participation and call for action from youth themselves. As someone who has worked for years in education and leadership for young people, I am especially excited to read about young people in other countries, developing leadership, strategic and creative thinking and community projects in their own neighborhoods. Too often, organizations formulate the projects and process in an effort to help communities, but this project encourages and learns from youth who are developing their ideas and learning how to make them sustainable. I read more about the organization and am really impressed with the guidance for youth to learn how to build business models, manage a budget and plan. This type of learning is particularly crucial for a globalized economy, where technology and collaborative working and learning are at the pinnacle of change. This arms students with the tools to advocate for themselves and what they need. As for thoughts on how to bridge this work into wider educational systems, I have a few thoughts on models that would be excited to learn more from this pedagogy and process: - Tapping into the various organizations that operate educational programs in these countries, such as Peacecorps and Worldteach that already have programs in these countries, but could use new models and structures for educational programming. Introducing these models and partnering with these organization could be mutually beneficial. -Working with US universities to design summer and study-abroad curriculum to integrate S4S strategies in structured for-credit projects in elementary and middle schools in these regions. I studied abroad in Mexico, and there were many students who took on special projects that enhanced their own learning through projects in the country. Something like this would be greatly beneficial for the learning of US students, and for the communities who could use support with building this new education for its young students. Of course, rigorous training would be required to ensure facilitators are prepared. - Working with non-profits in the area that are already working on programming, but could use training in building more sustainable models in community-based long-term projects. There are many non-profits that could tap into funding to begin new projects, and the beauty of S4S is that it is flexible in meeting the needs of communities. - Developing a branch of S4S as an educational-training enterprise that consults schools, organizations and communities in the pedagogy used, which can be applied in different models. I can imagine that this could spread as a program which is owned by communities after training, with guidance from S4S. - Tapping into funding resources for school districts, which would allow S4S to create after-school programs. For example, tapping into new legislation in countries that are funding after-school programming, but are yet to develop programs or are in search of collaboration for programmatic needs. -On a practical note, having a staff person, or hiring someone who leads a development initiative to present this model at universities, community centers and schools, in order to advocate and promote S4S. - Working with US universities interested in developing technological advancements for learning (ed-tech) or sports-advocacy (perhaps even sports teams) that would be interested in developing international collaboration. For example, Los Angeles has Chivas US, which is a US team with a Mexican affinity team- Chivas. They have an entire US department dedicated to community outreach and educational development. I think they would be thrilled to work on a project that could involve soccer in Mexico, AND the US, while also developing support for Mexican communities and interacting along international lines. I could see this also for baseball in US and Puerto Rico, or, another example, International theater companies in both the US and Latin America that could bridge their work through education. Very exciting organization with a promising future! I look forward to learning more!
reply - Jun 06, 2016
Dina Buchbinder Auron's picture
Dina Buchbinder Auron
During the past 9 years, my team at Sports for Sharing (S4S) and I have developed and implemented projects to promote active citizenship through games that involve physical activity. These games are a vehicle to practice competencies or skills that help children realize their own agency to make a difference in the world. We have implemented our projects in all kinds of backgrounds with over half a million people in Mexico and four other countries in the region. My team and I arrive to hundreds of schools, where children are bored and do not find a sense in why they go to school. The traditional way of teaching many times do not see children, ironically, do not take them into account or their opinions, and much less their potential. When we enter the schools with Sports for Sharing, there is an expectation of excitement, imagination, collaboration, and motivation. We start our sessions with an imaginary travel, where children jump in a map to understand the geography (rivers, mountain ranges, oceans, etc.) they are going through to arrive to their destination. Once we arrive, we go out to play. Our games address global challenges such as health, environment, gender inequality, etc. This is a practical invitation for children to participate, and children’s eyes start to shine. They connect to their immense capacity to learn and collaborate, and focus on what is happening. The alternative to this most times is bored children start bothering others around them. In the Sports for Sharing model, children, teachers, and parents build together experiences while having fun, then they reflect in a safe space they created, where they think about the values they practiced for everyone to participate. They also reflect about the global and local challenges presented at the game they played as they think of proposals to act upon solutions to address the challenges. This is a process where they discover their agency and create a sense of belonging. Children are invited to build respectful relations with their peers, and learn about the rules of interaction with justice, and no cheating!   One of the experiences that taught me the most about the power that lies within the practice of citizenship skills happened last year. At the end of an implementation of S4S activities, Regina, a 10 year-old girl from a public school surrounded by a challenging environment, presented her class project to teachers and parents: a campaign to improve the health of her community. Regina said proudly: “this is the first time in my life I feel useful”. Better citizens in my experience, have to do with our actions more than with what we know. My experience and what motivates me is seeing children accept responsibility for enabling others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty. how we learn to make choices and construct our identities – as individuals, as communities, as nations. Diverse studies (for example, Denham and Burton, 2003; Hoffman, 2002; Selman 1980; Yeates, Schultz and Selman, 1991)show there is a direct, significant correlation between these competencies (or lack there of) and constructive (or destructive) social behaviors. For instance, children’s aggressive behaviors have been related to difficulty in feeling empathy, constructively managing anger and conflicts, adequately interpreting others’ intentions, and reacting assertively to offenses. All of these are good citizenship skills that we nurture at S4S. However, in spite of the progress in understanding these competencies, and their relevance to promote more peaceful, inclusive and democratic interactions, it is still not clear which are the best pedagogic strategies to promote them. The practical vacuum is the main challenge in terms of how to bridge the gap between understanding this is important and applying the best pedagogical strategies to promote such education in wider systems. That is our challenge and at the same time our objective at S4S!
reply - Jun 05, 2016