Each year, International Day of Peace is recognized on September 21 as a 24-hour period of nonviolence and cease-fire around the world. The United Nations (UN) General Assembly observes this day to promote the ideals of peace and work toward more just societies.
Peace and justice are critical to achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with Goal 16 focusing specifically on these issues. International Day of Peace provides a great opportunity to explore these topics in your classroom. Here are some resources and background information to help you get started:
- How to Thoughtfully Engage with the SDGs as an Educator
- Teaching Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
- Goal 16 – Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions | The World’s Largest Lesson
So, how can you and your students make the world a more peaceful place? These are big, complex, global issues—but you can empower your students to take action and create meaningful change. Though not exhaustive, here are four ideas for how to observe International Day of Peace in your classroom.
1. Define what peace means to students.
As you learn about SDG 16, it can be helpful to examine different definitions of peace with your students and what it means to them personally. You can also do this with other vocabulary that comes up, such as:
Using the term “peace” or any other word or phrase you choose, ask students to write their own definition, find images, or draw a picture they think depicts the word.
If students want to, ask them to share what they wrote, drew, or found, and why they chose it. Have a class discussion about why peace might mean different things to different people.
2. Explore this year’s theme.
The UN has chosen the 2022 International Day of Peace theme as “End Racism. Build Peace.” One of the critical components of a more peaceful and just world is ensuring all people are free from racial discrimination.
Talking about race and discrimination in the classroom is hard and takes courage. But as a global educator, you can facilitate respectful dialogue and help your students build empathy for others around the world.
You may want to start with resources like those from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Learning together in a safe space will enable students to combat racism and be agents of change.
3. Learn about music and art promoting peace.
Music and art have long been used as a peaceful means of protest against violence, corruption, and human rights abuses.
Have students study the role of music and freedom songs in the US civil rights movement. Or explore how music has been used in West Africa by female musicians to draw attention to girls’ education and rights.
You can also learn about artists like Karim Wasfi, who plays his cello as a protest against violence at the sites of bombings in Baghdad. Pedro Reyes is a Mexican artist who turns decommissioned weapons into musical instruments. Discuss the role of art and music in promoting a more peaceful world with your students.
4. Ask students how they want to make an impact.
Give students agency to create their own projects and share ideas for how to make the world a more peaceful place. They can address issues they see in your community or explore global themes. For inspiration, learn about Piney Creek School’s unique approach to the SDGs, where students created their own projects focusing on specific goals.
Maintaining peace, justice, and strong institutions worldwide is a major, complex challenge. By thoughtfully engaging with SDG 16, your students can feel empowered to start addressing these challenges in their own ways. We hope you feel equipped to observe International Day of Peace with your students, and to work together to make the world a more peaceful place.