Boston Peace & Democracy Discussions

A Citywide Approach to Prevent Violence,

to Promote Literacy, and to Foster the Growth of Democracy

Give Children Transformative Peace & Democracy eBooks and Digital Games

Discuss with Them How to Prevent Violence and Improve Our City

Patt Greenhouse/Boston Globe Staff

Ray Flynn and Mel King talked about their friendship and collaboration to teach schoolchildren about democracy and civic engagement.

By Adrian Walker | Globe Columnist September 09, 2016

“Over the course of six decades or so, Mel King and Ray Flynn have been friends, occasional allies, historic  rivals, and now friends again….And the former rivals have now joined forces to promote discussions about democracy and non-violence.”

Boston Peace & Democracy Discussions

The overall goal of Boston Peace & Democracy Discussions is to engage all the children in our city in discussions with family members, teachers, librarians, police officers, street workers, nurses, doctors, and clergy members about how to create a more peaceful and democratic city and country.

Peace & Democracy eBooks and Digital Games

We propose to accomplish this by developing and making available Peace & Democracy eBooks and Digital Games which will provide digital versions of multicultural literature, along with digital games, activities, and curriculum, that can help children and adults discuss these kinds of issues.

Social Obstacles Addressed

Peace & Democracy Discussions are aimed at discussing how to prevent and overcome the effects of violence, poverty, income inequality, discrimination, low levels of literacy, and low levels of social trust.

Twleve Peace & Democracy Tools: Values, Knowledge, and Skills

The Peace & Democracy eBooks, digital games, and curriculum activities have been selected and designed to help children master twelve Peace & Democracy Tools (social and democratic competencies) that can help them prevent violence in their lives, attain important personal and academic goals, and contribute to creating a more compassionate and democratic society. Children will learn to embrace and master:

1. Love-related values: understanding and embracing values such as love, compassion, friendship, and trust

2. Relationship skills:ability to receiprocate and maintain close and caring relationships

3. Freedom values: understanding and embracing of values such as freedom, hope, perseverance, and courage

4. Self-determination skills: ability to establish and attain important personal and social goals

5. Social perspective taking skills: ability to express yourself and understand the thoughts and feelings of others

6. Identity awareness: ability to understand and take pride in your identity and history

7. Emotional awareness: ability to name, express, and manage your emotions

8. Health awareness: ability to be aware of harmful and healthy influences in your environment, eat well, and exercise regularly

9. Social problem solving: ability to use a variety of nonviolent strategies to solve interpersonal and inter-group problems

10. Democratic knowledge and values: understanding and internalization of the basic democratic values of our society and government such as liberty, justice, and equality

11. Social awareness: knowledge of the social obstacles that make it difficult to live according to these democratic values such as income inequality, discrimination, and violence

12. Democratic voice: ability to use your voice to advocate solutions to important social problems such as violence and income inequality

Integrates Learning of Language, Literacy, and Critical Thinking Skills

Children and  adolescents learn to use these Peace & Democracy Tools while at the same time mastering core language, literacy, and critical thinking skills.

The First Boston Peace & Democracy Discussion: How can we prevent violence in our city and our country?

The focus of the first Boston Peace & Democracy Discussion will be on exploring ways that we can work together to prevent violence in our city. The Central Question will be, “How can we prevent violence in our city and our country?”

The First Peace & Democracy eBook and Story-Based Digital Games 

As a way to support this discussion, we have selected It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way: A Barrio Story (No tiene que ser así: una historia del barrio) written by Luis J. Rodríguez and illustrated by Daniel Galvez and published by Lee & Low to be the first of our Peace & Democracy eBooks and Digital Games. It is a story about a Latino boy in Los Angeles who is being pressured to join a local gang and learns to stand up for himself and say, “It doesn’t have to be this way.” Age range is from 8-12 years, and in a school setting, it could be used in 4th through 5th grades. Available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

After reading and discussing this story about gangs and violence in one neighborhood (barrio) in Los Angeles, California, we’re encouraging students and participating adults to discuss their points of view about how we can prevent violence in our city and in our society.  What are the things that “don’t have to be this way” in our city? How can we work together to improve our city and our country?

Standing in the Characters’ Shoes…Standing in Each Other’s Shoes

The social skill focus for this first eBook is on social perspective taking—students and adults learn to stand in the shoes of the characters and then stand in each other’s shoes.

Peace & Democracy Goals

Through participating in these discussions, embracing these values, and mastering these skills, children will be able to prevent violence in their lives, attain their personal and academic goals, increase their vocabulary, improve their reading comprehension, develop their critical thinking skills, and use their voices to advocate for solutions to important social problems.

January Kick-Off Discussions in Six Pilot Neighborhoods

We plan to begin this first discussion with fourth- and fifth-grade students (8–10 year olds) in January 2017 with kick-off events/discussions in six pilot neighborhoods: Chinatown, East Boston/Orient Heights, Jamaica Plain, Dorchester/Codman Square, the South End, and South Boston.

Discussions Throughout the Neighborhoods

Within each neighborhood, the city agencies and community organizations will be working together to support these discussions, including Boston Public Schools, charter and religious schools, after-school programs, Boston Housing Authority, Boston Youth and Family Centers, Boston Branch Libraries, BMC Neighborhood Health Centers, and Boston Police Department, school police, and community service officers.

Free Access to Everyone in March 2017

All schools and educational organizations in Boston who serve grades 4–5 will have free access to this first digital prototype in March 2017.

Future Peace & Democracy Discussions

After beginning this discussion of ways to prevent violence with fourth and fifth graders in January, we will continue these discussions with seventh and tenth graders in May and June. By September 2017, there will be one eBook per grade level for all grade levels, pre-K to 12, focusing on violence prevention. Future Boston Peace & Democracy Discussions and related eBooks and digital games will focus on discrimination, income inequality, and creating a more vibrant democratic city and society. Our long-term goal is to provide a library of Peace & Democracy eBooks and Digital Games that can support ongoing discussions across the generations of how to continue to create a more peaceful and democratic city and society.

History and Voices of Love and Freedom

Peace & Democracy eBooks and Digital Games builds on the Voices of Love and Freedom program that was adopted by the Boston Public Schools in 1995 as the district-wide literature-based character education and violence prevention program for the district. Subsequently, Voices of Love and Freedom has been transformed into several supplemental and comprehensive reading and writing programs, including Voices Literature and Writing, a read-aloud social development and literacy program, and Voices Leveled Library which provides leveled books for each of the Voices themes.

Boston Peace & Democracy Advisory Board

The Boston Peace & Democracy Advisory Board is in the process of reaching out to potential supporters and partners. Mel King is the honorary chairperson of the board and was just recently joined on the board by former Mayor of Boston, Ray Flynn. Click here to see the current list of advisory board members.

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