Enriching student learning on peace through the Facing Difference Challenge

Posted by SR Educators on
Tue, 12/12/2017

This blog post comes to you from John Kensek, a teacher who has taught history and social studies at Edgewood Junior High School in Ellettsville, IN. Learn how he is approaching the Facing Difference Challenge with his students and making it a learning opportunity for his classroom.

The Challenge Theme

In a time when there certainly seems to be peace lacking in the world, I was very excited for this year’s focus with Students Rebuild. My seventh grade social studies students learn about the eastern hemisphere, which centers on Africa and Asia. Both of these continents have had past and present conflict and peace is a frequent theme. The Facing Difference Challenge is a great resource to supplement the social studies content to give students real evidence focused on the topic of peace and how young people in Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and the South Caucasus region are implementing change. That theme is extremely powerful in terms of student learning, so that students see that they are not bystanders in the area of peace but advocates for change. However, the challenge theme is relevant across all content areas, and I do see a lot of cross content possibilities that teachers could utilize with this challenge in their classroom.

Art Project

The art component of the Students Rebuild Challenge is what originally drew me to Students Rebuild. My school has a lot of fundraisers and knowing that we could make a financial difference without taking on a fundraising endeavor was extremely appealing. I tend to lead the Challenges with the art project, and I introduced my students to Students Rebuild early during the first nine weeks of the year and then had them complete the art project right before the first nine weeks ended. I wanted to draw my students into the challenge, and the the art component is a great way to do this. I love that the art is a portrait of each student, and I reminded students that peace starts within ourselves. Between myself and the other seventh grade social studies teacher, we had around two hundred students create portraits of themselves to mail to Students Rebuild. As my students continue learning through the Challenge, we will return to some of the resources on the Students Rebuild page. My plan is to use the project based learning unit Advocates for Peace in April as an end of the year culminating project. I had the opportunity to be a part of the team of teachers that were able to help inform this unit working with the Buck Institute of Education faculty and staff. By April my students will have an entire year of content to help them better understand the concept of peace, which will lead them in answering some areas that need peace in their own school and community.

Building Learning

I approached this year’s challenge as an entire year focus around the concept of peace.Throughout the year students would be building a working definition of what peace is and what it looks like in the lives of people. In the Spring, I believe students will be equipped with necessary knowledge by this point to begin looking inward to their own school and community. Students will then take their well constructed knowledge of peace and use it to evaluate problems of peace around them and then provide solutions to these problems. The relevance and meaning that students will draw from this project and the Students Rebuild Facing Difference Challenge will be very powerful and something students will continue to look back on for years to come.

Written by:

John Kensek is currently the Technology Integration Specialist through Five Star Technology Solutions working with the North Lawrence School Corporation in Bedford, Indiana. He has over ten years of teaching experience and taught the last 5 years at Edgewood Junior High School, teaching 7th grade social studies and leading Student Rebuild Challenges the last two years.

You can find more information on the “Advocates for Peace” Project Based Learning unit and the Facing Difference Challenge here.