Taking violence out of play

Fun: A Deep Run Elementary School program focuses on teaching kids peaceful ways to have fun.


April 12, 2000|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Deep Run Elementary School children have been sorting through pencils, safety pins, paper plates, old jeans and many other household items during the past few weeks, but their activity has nothing to do with spring cleaning.

The items will be used today at the Elkridge school for Peaceful Ways to Play Night, which will highlight the theme of peace. It's one of many activities at the school this year seeking to demonstrate ways to get along and avoid violence.

It is widely believed that children learn through play and example, and the Peaceful Ways event builds on that concept. Families will be able to explore nonviolent ways to play and share peaceful activities.

Deep Run Principal Fran Donaldson says she believes that the event is "one way to counteract the violence we hear about in the schools. It's important to teach kids to get along peacefully."

The idea has been around for several years in churches and taken various formats. It has spawned a national grass-roots organization, the Lion & Lamb project, which says that violence is not child's play. Lion & Lamb provides information about the effects of violent entertainment, toys and games on children's behavior.

Donaldson has been involved with the nonviolence project in the community and other school settings and wanted to bring it to Deep Run. About 12 staff members and many schoolchildren have worked on the event.

Tonight, families will rotate among stations making puppets, assembling friendship bracelets, and making quilts and other crafts. Group games and face-painting also are planned.

Media specialist Jeannie Phillips will tell stories related to peace. Each activity is designed to encourage peaceful play and offer alternatives to violent games.

"Violence is not the same as fun," Donaldson says. "If you play peacefully, you will act peacefully."

Violent toys will be collected to further promote peaceful play. Children who turn in violent toys, video games and similar items will receive a "Peacemaker Certificate" with store coupons and giveaways.

It is hoped that this activity will influence children and parents to consider the toys they purchase and the message they send about violence. The school plans to apply for a grant to fund an artist-in-residence next year and create a "Peace Sculpture" from the violent toys collected. The sculpture will be placed in the school courtyard.

Two parent workshops are planned. One, Internet Safety, will be presented by an expert in the medium. The second, Violence in Entertainment, will focus on how violent toys, games and movies are marketed by toy companies and the media to increasingly younger children. Laura Smit, a Deep Run parent who coordinates cultural arts at the school, will present the latter workshop.

The continuing theme of peace at the school has involved children at all levels. A Peace Patrol catches kids in acts of peace, and their names are read during morning announcements. The fifth-grade chorus' spring concert will feature songs about resolving conflicts and getting along. Pupils' peace posters will be displayed at the event.

"Parents and teachers need to model ways to resolve conflicts without resorting to violence," Donaldson says. "It's a lesson to learn for all of their lives."

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