What is that, you ask? Peace Tree Day was inspired by the film “The Peace Tree” written and directed by Mitra Sen. In the film Shazia, a 7 year old Muslim girl and Kylie, her Christian friend, want to celebrate each others’ festivals, Christmas and Eid. Their parents express concerns about practicing a celebration outside their own religion. The film depicts how the children try to inform their parents about the importance of sharing and celebrating diversity. Through their struggles, they create a unique symbol – The Peace Tree. To view a preview of the film, please visit: www.sandalwoodproductions.com/peacetree/synopsis.html
Peace Tree Day was first celebrated in Toronto in 2006. It inspires children to honor their culture, history, celebrations and festivals and think about how to inspire peace in their communities and in the world at large. At the same time children learn about other cultures, history, celebrations, and festivals. Peace Trees highlight symbols from all cultures and faiths on one tree to reflect the beauty of ‘diversity in unity’.
A Peace Tree can be created for the entire school and can involve all students. Peace Trees can also be created in individual classrooms and grow throughout the year. You can add to your Peace Tree whenever your class feels inspired to. Please visit www.peacetreeday.com for toolkits on how to create a peace tree and additional information on how to celebrate Peace Tree Day.
How to create a Peace Tree in your school.
A Peace Tree can be created for the entire school which would be a wonderful activity that can involve all the students and a beautiful symbol for our youth to celebrate throughout the year. Peace Trees can also be created in individual classrooms and grow throughout the year. The following steps outline how to create your Peace Tree.
- Collect leafless branches from around the yard and plant in a large pot or planter. Place planter in front foyer, library or classroom. The tree can range from 4’ to 7’ in height; however, it should have many small branches to hang the decorations. A real tree can also be bought so that children can watch as it grows from year to year. Some students paint a Peace Tree on the wall and create the decorations out of construction paper. Otherwise you can contact your local Parks and Recreation and ask them to donate a tree they have cut down. You can also think of other ways to create your Peace Tree.
- As the first activity is to create the Peace Tree, every student in the school can make a symbol from their culture or a peace symbol from their faith that they would like to share. This can be part of their All About Me projects. Students should research their symbols and share their meaning with the class. Students can create their symbol out of colourful construction paper (cut and paste), paper mache, sticks etc. Be imaginative.
- Symbols from different faiths and cultures can include, the Moon and the Star from Islam, the Star of David from Judaism, a Diya from Diwali, the Ohm from Hinduism, the Cross from Christianity, a Kwanzaa Kinara, the Yin Yang from Taoism, a Chinese Lantern etc. Visit www.peacetreeday.com and click decorations to see samples. Teachers should ensure that there is a diversity of symbols represented on the tree to reflect the true meaning of The Peace Tree – ‘celebrating diversity in unity’.
- Each class can go down to the Peace Tree in the foyer/library and place their symbols on the tree. One class can be responsible for creating one large origami paper crane to place at the top of the tree as the paper crane was the inspiration for creating the Peace Tree. Every class should assign Peace Tree Ambassadors to take care of and maintain the tree as peace is something that is created and the Peace Tree needs to be taken care of and nurtured. Some schools may want to create a Peace Planet or Peace Place in the library with their Peace Tree with books and music reflecting peace and diversity.
- Throughout the year, as students research different countries, festivals and cultures, they can add more life and colour to The Peace Tree and create new symbols, so it continues to grow and highlights the beauty of ‘diversity in unity’ which reflects peace.
- During Remembrance Day, students can also place their messages of peace on the Peace Tree written in hearts or leaves or a symbol they feel reflects peace. Peace can be written in different languages to hang on the tree.
- There are numerous activities that can be carried out in class that connect back to the Peace Tree throughout the year to remind students of our hope for a world of peace. Each time a new festival takes place, new Peace Tree Ambassadors in each class can be assigned to take the symbols from the festival made by the students to hang on the tree. By the end of the year, the Peace Tree will be adorned with ornaments, symbols and messages from all our diverse cultures and faiths and be truly reflective of the children in the school and what they have learned through the year.
- To celebrate the learning over the year, on June 1st every year, students can celebrate Peace Tree Day at school. On this day children can dress up in clothes from their cultures or a culture other than their own. Children can celebrate by brainstorming and sharing peace initiatives and perform dances and concerts that blend concepts from different cultures, conduct ‘How to Workshops’ (eg.‘How to Make Sushi’, ‘The Art of Mehndi’, ‘How to Do the Salsa’ etc.) and prepare a Multicultural Food Market where they can raise funds to give to children in war torn countries. On Peace Tree Day children also bring in clothes and old toys to give to underprivileged children.