By: David J. Smith, June 20, 2015
At the International Conference on Conflict Resolution Education held Friday, June 19 and Saturday, June 20, over 250 students, faculty, and practitioners met to focus on improving the teaching and learning of conflict and peace.
I had the opportunity to attend a session where students from Cleveland Public Schools’ Winning Against Violent Environments (W.A.V.E.) program shared about their program. The students led activities that emphasized building conflict resolution skills and raising peacebuilding awareness. Exercises included the “Chocolate Kiss Game” that focused on looking at conflict in a cooperative way and the “Inside Outside Game” which looked at inclusion/exclusion. The faculty leaders, Carole Close and Antonio Sanford, talked about the history and benefits of W.A.V.E., but the activities were run by students.
W.A.V.E. started in 1983 and is the oldest and one of the few district-wide conflict resolution education programs in the United States. The program is written into the school district’s student handbook and the Cleveland Teacher’s Union Contract. W.A.V.E. trains student mediators in grades 4 to 12, provides program implementation, and networks the school program advisers. The program design incorporates cooperative learning methods and democratic classroom organization theories. W.A.V.E. staff also provide workshops for teachers, school staff, administrators, parents and community members.
W.A.V.E.’S mission is to educate young people to teach others life long skills through a process that empowers and enables them to work for social justice and create peaceful and healthy environments in which to live. W.A.V.E. is a researched based, award winning, internationally recognized program. It has been featured in Instructor Magazine, The American School Board Journal, The Ohio State University’s Theory Into Practice Journal, The New York Times, New Moon Magazine, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Washington Post and Baldwin’s Ohio Law Journal.