Drinking Gourd Elementary School

Daily Social Education

We're marching in the Eugene Celebration parade.Our goal is to help children learn the skills they need to live peacefully with one another, day by day. As a student at the Drinking Gourd School, you learn to:

Respect yourself and others, including all the ways others are different from you.

• Care about and empathize with others–people all over our world, not just those inside our national boundaries.

Understand that conflicts are a natural consequence of society; recognize, acknowledge and be prepared to deal with them.

• Dislike violence and know the skills necessary to resolve conflicts non-violently.

• Know how to listen to others and how to explain your own perspective.

• Know that compromise is a good thing and necessary for all of us to get along.

• Be able to think of multiple solutions for any problem; be willing to listen to others’ ideas.

• Understand that all people have the same basic needs.

• Have the willingness to work toward a world in which everyone has their basic needs met.

• Know how to stand up against injustice for yourself and others.

Cooperation, Caring, and Empathy

One of the first goals of the Drinking Gourd School’s peace education curriculum is to help the students learn to care about and empathize with others. These skills are the foundation of all social learning.

We begin these lessons with direct experiences in our classroom. Our program is designed to directly encourage and reward students for cooperation, empathy, and demonstrations of mutual support.

Story Discussions: Students are presented with stories in which they are asked to identify the feelings of the characters involved in the situation, to relate these to their own experiences, and to engage in problem-solving.

For example, the Quail class discussed a problem Elizabeth, one of their doll friends, had when another child teased her about being fat. Discussing the questions, “How would you feel if this happened to you?” and “If you heard someone say that, what could you do to support Elizabeth?” gives the students a chance to practice empathy, caring, and standing up against bias.

Emphasis on Cooperation: At the Drinking Gourd, effort and excitement are encouraged in situations where the group is striving toward a common goal.

Saying, “I like how this group is working together,” and “We did that so quickly because everyone helped,” are simple ways to encourage and celebrate cooperation. Teachers consciously find opportunities to do this every day.

Projects are often done in cooperative groups or as a whole class. Students created two large dinosaurs using paper maché. The group used consensus decision-making skills to decide which dinosaurs to make. When they are done, the group will be able to proudly say, “Look what WE have done!”

Students all share materials rather than keeping a horde of markers and crayons in their own desks. “Can I have that after you?” is our first role play of the year.

Conflict Resolution and Facilitation Skills

Conflict is a natural outcome of human interaction. Learning to find solutions that satisfy everyone in a conflict is essential to living in a peaceful society.

First, the children learn that we always have choices when reacting to a conflict. Students learn to recognize that choices like name-calling, exclusion, and hitting make the conflict worse, taking us “up the conflict escalator.” Through doll stories, role plays and real-life intervention, students become skilled at identifying and avoiding these choices.

Next, they learn a repertoire of positive solutions such as Share It, Acknowledge the Feelings, Take Turns, and even Ignore It, and Let It Go. Practicing through role plays and classroom discussions puts these choices at the children’s fingertips when the appropriate situation arises in real life.

For playground problems, students learn to call for a “huddle”. Even the youngest can call out, “Huddle!”, and have the entire group gather to discuss their problem with the game.

When a student, or the teacher, has a classroom problem, a Class Meeting is convened.

In both Class Meeting and playground Huddles, a simple 3-step process is followed: State the Problem, Brainstorm Solutions, and Compromise to Consensus.

Coming to consensus is not a simple process. Many adult groups are entirely unable to do so. But the children “find agreement” every day. They can do this because they want to, and expect to, find an agreement. They know they will have more fun playing than they will if they endlessly disagree. During Drinking Gourd problem-solving sessions, all participants take part in the discussion and everyone knows their feelings and needs will be heard and attended to when decisions are being made. And every student comes to know how great it feels to find an agreement together.

We know our methods are being successful. A recent graduate, who was playing in the park, heard two young boys arguing louder and louder and starting to shove each other. So he walked over to them to ask, “What’s the problem?” He got them to listen to each other. Other kids came to listen to the discussion. Before long, they were all playing together peacefully.

The Great Rope Exhibition

Guiding Social Learning at the Drinking Gourd School

By Trisha Whitney

I am always looking for ways to help my students develop cooperation, conflict resolution and mutual encouragement skills. Although I do create lesson plans designed to teach these skills, some of my most valuable teaching moments occur during activities created by the children themselves.

A perfect opportunity to do this came during a Fall recess. Three of my students had spent most of the recess trying to jump rope in rhythm with each other. Several others watched in awe while trying to get over their own ropes once or twice.

I thought, as I watched both groups, that I should find a way to demonstrate to all of them that each of us can feel proud of learning something new on our own level. One of us can feel proud of learning to jump in rhythm while another is learning to jump the rope twice.

This attitude carries over to allow one child to find pride in mastering writing the letter “a” while another masters correct usage of capital letters while writing a two-page essay.

The perfect opportunity to reinforce this attitude came that day when one of the students exclaimed, “I know! Let’s do this for a show!” It was a good idea. Planning, cooperating and getting on “stage” to show you can do something well, are all part of putting on your own show.

Then a third child put in her idea. “Let’s make it a contest to see who’s the best jumper!” It was time for me to step in. Group cooperation and mutual encouragement do not thrive in an environment where children are constantly comparing themselves to each other, trying to see themselves as “the best.”

“How about an exhibition?”, I asked. The response was enthusiastic (except for the child who wanted a contest. She later told me she wanted a contest because she was sure she would win. She grumbled a bit and then joined in.) and they began to discuss the show.

“But I don’t know how to jump,” wailed a five-year-old. I let them solve this problem themselves, sure that our lessons in mutual encouragement would be put to use here. Together they came up with the idea that each person could do anything they wanted with the rope, as long as it was different from the others.

When I asked, “Who can be in this show?”, the immediate response was, “Everyone!”. It encouraged them to spread the news over the playground so everyone was included. A short practice session I suggested gave me time to encourage two reluctant children to prepare an act. I was appointed the announcer because I was the only member of the audience not doing an act.

Then, the show was on! We watched the Backwards Jumper, the Snake Charmer, the Wild Rope and the Jump Rope Trio (the original planners.) We all cheered and whistled. Performers bowed and bowed and bowed again.

When all was said and done the Great Rope Exhibition was a big success. The kids had practiced cooperation, conflict-resolution, and mutual encouragement ,as well as creativity, divergent thinking, physical skills, performing arts and how to be a good audience. The child who wanted a contest discovered she didn’t need to be judged “the best” to feel good about what she did. In addition, they all got a healthy boost to their self-esteem from the most influential source of all—their peers.