Education Level: primary school
Approach: Whole School Peace Education
Target Group: 465 pupils from 3 to 12 years old
Brief description of the practice
Escola Marina is a newly created school (2005-2006). It has grown steadily and from its inception it has considered coexistence to be especially important in its educational goals. With the help of the School for a Culture of Peace at the UAB and to comply with Catalan government requirements for all schools, the Escola Marina worked during the 2009-2010 school year to systematize and document its Coexistence Project.
Objectives of the practice
- Promote social cohesion in and outside of the school.
- Form cooperative, participatory and responsible people.
The Escola Marina has based its educational project on three ideas:
- Awareness that people, the school and the community are constantly developing.
- Recognition that children have the leading role.
When putting the program together, the education team drew from several sources. Specifically, during the development and systematization of the Coexistence Program, the teachers used the Whole School Peace Education approach. This is based on the concept of positive peace, on conflict transformation and the need to develop non-violence as a transversal methodology in the center. It proposes Provention; in other words, the community is created based on all people having the personal and collective tools needed to constructively address conflict. It develops what is called the provention ladder, or the steps necessary to achieve it, which include: the knowledge and acknowledgment of oneself and others, appreciation, confidence-building, non-violent communication, collective democratic decision-making and cooperation. Whole-school peace education also develops the skills needed to analyze, negotiate and mediate in conflicts, and promotes the need to educate in creativity in order to find optimal solutions. It also introduces restorative practices as community strategies to address conflicts. Finally, this approach advocates the need to overcome any hidden agendas in four ways: the creation of democratic and non-violent school structures; the use of classroom methods that promote social interaction and personal autonomy; the creation of adult authority/child relationships based on the ethics of care and appreciation, and a syllabus that contains content linked to the ideas of coexistence and peace.
The Escola Marina develops this approach to its coexistence project through constant self-evaluation and reflection, which guarantees that the project will evolve and grow and adapt to changes at the school.
In this good practice, the main steps are:
- When the school was created, it began only with preschool pupils, and the center was structured, almost intuitively, with a lot of attention to coexistence, mutual understanding and building positive relationships.
- The school grew as the years went by. In this new context efforts were made to systematize the coexistence practices that had worked so well in a small school and make them part of a permanent structure that would continue to operate in a large school. Objectives and methods were established for the best practices the school wished to preserve.
- Eventually the Department of Education of the Catalan government required the implementation of a coexistence project in all schools. The government provided guidance and direction as a basis for the development of the project, which each center set up autonomously. The Escola Marina used this opportunity and the guidelines to analyze the current state of coexistence in the school. This meant conducting an informal assessment, and a decision was made to get some training that would help the staff reflect, systematize and provide a theoretical framework for the Coexistence Project.
- During the 2009-2010 academic year the team took a course and received advice from the School for a Culture of Peace at the UAB. As a result of the training the Coexistence Project was reviewed, systematized and rewritten.
- The continuous self-assessment of initiatives at the center is used to finetune them.
- During the 2013-14 school year a discussion took place on the need to give the teachers a new theoretical framework and thus guarantee their contribution to the coexistence project. A new course was offered to the teachers to give them greater understanding of how to deal with conflict. This also was an opportunity to review and broaden some of the initiatives and protocols for addressing conflicts. This exercise will be conducted periodically.
Challenges and opportunities posed by the context
- It is a newly created school and it has a specific self-directed plan for the first four years. This made it possible to first dream about the school we wanted and then set it up from scratch, step by step, making it easier for the dream to become reality.
- It is located in a newly built residential neighborhood that has no social facilities. The lack of meeting places and the school policy of opening its doors to the neighborhood and to family involvement has made the school a reference for the organizations in the neighborhood since it is available for them (meetings of the Neighborhood Association, sports groups, etc), which is uncommon in Catalonia.
- It is a public school where annual faculty turnover is about 50%. This has forced the center to perform specific actions to overcome this problem.
Results and impacts
The results achieved in the school include the structural implementation of the following projects and actions:
- The Tutorial Action Plan includes the class assembly, cooperative work and interviews with each of the pupils and their families. It also includes emotional education and shared methods of conflict resolution. The Student Participation and Cooperation Plan – an Assembly of Delegates meets twice a month with the director. Pupils have the power to decide on many organizational issues that affect them only (managing their playtime, talking about their perception of shared spaces, etc). The school rules were written by the pupils, and each year they are reviewed by the Assembly of Delegates. The delegates explain the rules to the rest of the pupils. Pupils are also responsible for organizing daily chores in the school, such as watering plants, wishing people a happy birthday over the loudspeaker system, distributing soap and paper to the classes or running the library loan service.
- The Induction Plan for new teachers: This includes things such as accompanying a new teacher at the beginning, continuous assessment of his or her adaptation, a school training plan, and having more than one teacher in the classroom.
- Relations with the families: Convinced that the participation and trust of the families in the school is essential, parents are involved in joint committees where they work together with teachers to organize some activities. They have a Family-School Forum where parents meet to share experiences and concerns under the guidance of an expert. Many families also suggest learning activities to the teachers, and they organize these together. They also have a parents association that contributes its resources to improve the quality of education in the school.
- “We All Educate" project: This is a guidance strategy for all of the adults who interact with the children (caretakers, administrative staff, etc), to ensure they have the tools to guide children in the development of their basic skills in everyday situations of school life, and thus provide a consistent framework for child/adult interaction.
- In the area of teaching, there is a strong focus on Project Work, to allow the pupils to enjoy active, collaborative and innovative learning. Pupils evaluate their own work and learning processes; each term, teachers share their opinion with the pupil and his/her parents via a response to the self-evaluation of the pupil in question. They also provide “Thinking Time” for pupils in order to strengthen their cognitive strategies and reflective capacity.
- The Aesthetic Project: The goal of this project is to create a stimulating and welcoming physical environment in cooperation with pupils. The education team believes that the physical environment also helps to promote a culture of peace.
- "Growing Together" Project: every pupil from age seven on becomes a tutor for a smaller child throughout their schooling. The tutors support the pupils in different tasks and perform some activities together (wake up the young ones from their nap, help them to learn how to read by reading together, perform an activity to meet the supervised pupil’s family, they go on a few trips together, sit together at festivals, etc).
- Celebrations: The school organizes some functions as way to bring together the whole community. Three main events are organized with the participation of families: the Letters Festival, Science Day and the Arts Festival.
- The children leave school with the social abilities for peaceful coexistence and with participation skills. At the end of sixth level, an assessment is made of the pupil’s entire history. At the end of this phase their level of involvement and responsibility gives us a good idea of their social skills.
- The children are able to provide constructive evaluations. The assessments that pupils make of their younger peers, beginning in the second grade, are positive, constructive and educational. Over the last eight years there were only three times when teachers had to intervene to correct an inadequate evaluation.
- The families feel involved in the school: 80-90% of families voluntarily come to school to pick up their children on a regular basis; more than 90% of families participate in the festivities.
- The school has become a social hub for the neighborhood: families gather for extracurricular activities, neighborhood organizations ask for meeting rooms at the school, and the sports facilities are used by neighbors.
- The school climate is positive: The number of conflicts that require adult intervention and the application of punishments is very low.
- When asked to evaluate the school year, substitute teachers often mention coexistence-related aspects as some of the most positive. Some teachers transfer the coexistence model they have seen in Marina Escola to the other schools they work at later on.
- Thoughtfulness and self-evaluation. This, in conjunction with the motivation and involvement of teachers, can help create solid educational criteria that can be systematized and applied in large schools. The pupil self-assessment plan fosters a culture of evaluation as a constructive tool rather than a form of control, and educates children in self-knowledge and self-control.
- Strong conviction and determination regarding the need to consolidate a school structure that is democratic and non-violent, which are essential to guaranteeing a solid education for peace. Conviction that the pedagogical model must also be consistent with an education for peace.
- Careful and non-violent dealings with the whole educational community, including explicit recognition and actions for each group, with particular attention to families and non-teaching staff.
- The teacher induction plan: the search for ways to ensure the smooth running of the school in a situation where annual faculty turnover is greater than 50%. This also makes it possible to provide training in the Escola Marina model to teachers who will subsequently take this knowledge to other schools.
Father of one of the students
“This year the Marina school is celebrating its 10th anniversary. I’m really very pleased and excited to be part of this school, to see that the school’s program goes way beyond applying the same old way of transmitting knowledge that was used when I was a child. At school both the teachers and the students convey a sense of responsibility, teamwork and coexistence. What’s more, it's the children themselves, the real stars of the show, that say so, and it makes me realize how important these years at school are for their development. I realized that the little tasks that they do every day are really much more than just making cue cards or searching for information. They are part of a community where everyone has their place, and all of them are part of the team. I like the Marina school.”
“I’ve been working at the school for two years and every day I learn something new ... it’s a feeling that is hard to explain. It is a school, but we are people, we are a group, and if we all get behind the ball we can do anything.”
“I would run out of paper if I tried to describe everything I’ve experienced in this school. My whole life changed since I arrived, and I started to discover some wonderful things and, best of all, some great people with incredible values. I’m thankful to be here and to have a chance to help educate people, to build a better future every day.”