Planting seeds of peace

Montessori students learn change begins from within

Posted: Wednesday, November 16, 2005

When prospective students enroll at Soldotna Montessori Charter School, they are asked to sign an agreement to coexist in peace and harmony with their peers.

While the written agreement gets filed away and students may not have a complete understanding of the concept of peace, they now at least have a daily reminder of it: A peace pole has been planted at the school.

The obelisk-shaped post is visible through the windows of the hallway leading to Soldotna Montessori’s wing of Soldotna Elementary School, and is inscribed, in eight languages, with the message “May Peace Prevail on Earth.”

“It’s meant to be a reminder that world peace begins on an individual basis,” said Soldotna Montessori Principal Mo Sanders.

The peace pole was dedicated on Sept. 21 in a school ceremony to celebrate World Peace Day. And while Sanders said she hadn’t heard of a peace pole until one of her teachers mentioned it, the Peace Pole Project isn’t new. To date, more than 200,000 peace poles have been planted in 180 countries around the world, according to the World Peace Prayer Society Web site,

Sanders said the languages on the peace pole were chosen to be representative the school and the community. In addition to English, the message is written in Aleutiq, Chinese, Greek, Hindi, Korean, Mal-aysian and Spanish.

Sanders said there were some concerns that the peace pole would be interpreted as anti-war.

“It’s just pro-world peace,” Sanders said, adding that her students are aware of the conflict in Iraq and send cards to troops there. “It’s just meant to be a positive message.”

Peaceful coexistence and community service are stressed in the Montessori curriculum, and Sanders said her students are thinking globally and acting locally. Community service projects have included cleaning up litter at Soldotna’s city parks and making family sized bean soup kits for the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank.

“There’s some kind of magic that goes on when you’re helping other people,” Sanders said.

With the Internet making the world smaller, students have found they can act globally as well, raising funds for tsunami and hurricane disaster victims and helping with a national hunger relief program.

Sanders said students jump into these projects wholeheartedly.

“I think kids are amazing. They really want to make the world a better place, but they don’t think they’re empowered to do it,” Sanders said.

Show children they have the power to make a difference, Sanders said, and “they take it more seriously than adults.

“It’s a really neat thing, and one of the major components of our school.”

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