Peaceful Schools International launches new books to help children navigate conflict

Resolving conflict can be tricky enough for adults, but a new series of books published by Saint Mary’s University aims to help children better understand and resolve conflicts respectfully and peacefully.

Peaceful Schools International launched the trio of books on October 19, in conjunction with the university and the Saint Mary’s University Students’ Association (SMUSA). All three were written by Amelia Penney-Crocker, a Grade 8 student at Oxford School, while her two best friends Ruby Jangaard and Marin DeWolfe created the engaging illustrations.

Amelia first got involved with Peaceful Schools when the charitable organization – housed and supported at SMU – gave a presentation to her elementary school, which later participated in a Peace Conference here on campus.

“Then I was lucky enough to go to Belfast with the Peaceful Schools team from Saint Mary’s,” said the budding author, who also won the 2016 Woozles writing contest and co-wrote an article about Syrian refugees for Our Children magazine. “It was interesting to see the way kids from other places have a different experience with conflict.”

The idea emerged to create a fun educational resource written by children for children, and “I hope that me writing them and me being a kid will help to connect to other kids in a better way,” she said.

The books are Animal School, The Enchantress from Canada and The Fairy Ring. They examine ways to peacefully de-escalate conflict, address hurtful insults, share difficult feedback, and reach out to adults for guidance on standing up for yourself.

The stories were created for local elementary schools and the Northern Ireland Conflict Resolution Program, now in its 14th year of providing conflict resolution training to SMU students in the faculties of Arts, Science and Commerce. Through the program, the books – and skits based on them – will be shared with children in HRM and more than 100 classrooms throughout Northern Ireland, explained Patrick Guerra, SMU’s student coordinator for Peaceful Schools International. The next trip overseas is scheduled for this February.

 Commending the book’s creators as “our next generation of scholars,” President Dr. Robert Summerby-Murray said “we want to celebrate their work particularly as it relates to peaceful schools, and the idea that education around conflict resolution and understanding peace is important for all of us, at all levels of our educational institutions.”

The launch event also acknowledged inspiration and support from Dr. Hetty van Gurp, founder of Peaceful Schools International. She was recently appointed to the newly established Provincial Advisory Council on Education, which replaces the seven dissolved regional school boards.

“What this means is at a provincial level, we will now have the input of Peaceful Schools International promoting the definitive inclusion of peace education in the curriculum, and this has been one of the central goals of the organization all along. So we are very grateful for everything Dr. van Gurp has done to make this a reality going forward,” said Bridget Brownlow, SMU’s Conflict Resolution Advisor and President of Peaceful Schools International.