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Human Volcano

This activity is about learning to avoid emotional volcanic eruptions and their consequences. Learning to control emotions takes intention, planning and practice.

Ask students, “How is anger like a volcano? What kind of trouble can come from losing control of your anger?”

Teach this three-step process for regaining control.

  • THINK – what happened, what did you do, what is going on?
  • FEEL – name your emotions, what’s going on inside of you?
  • RESPOND – Use the information you came up with while thinking and feeling to choose a nonviolent, appropriate reaction.

Ask, “Can you think of a time when you didn’t manage your emotions well and let the volcano erupt? How could you have handled the situation differently?”

The Power of Nonviolent Communication – a Story

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had a quarrel, as it occasionally happens in a marriage. One word led to another, and suddenly Prince Albert angrily left the bedroom, went to his study, slammed the door and locked it. Queen Victoria ran after him, knocked on the door and demanded, “Open!” There was no answer. She pounded the door with her fist and shouted, “Open at once!!” No answer. She shouted at the top of her voice, “I am the Queen of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, the Empress of India and of the entire British Commonwealth, I am the Commander-in-Chief of all the British armed forces, and I order you hereby to open this door!!!” No answer.

Finally she said in a soft voice, “Albert, I am sorry, I love you and miss you.” The door then opened. This shows that nonviolence can be more powerful than violence.

This is a true story that appeared in a Swiss newspaper many years ago.

Striking Out Stress – for Middle and High School Students

Students are not at their best for learning or resolving conflicts when they are experiencing stress. The objective of this activity is to identify situations that cause feelings of stress, and to determine and discuss positive, healthy ways to cope with stressful situations.

Discuss with students the definition of stress.

1. Explain that stress can cause powerful feelings, as well as biological changes in the body.

2. Have students brainstorm feelings and biological changes that stress can cause.
* Responses typically relate to the “fight or flight” theory of stress response.
* For useful information see: Gender Differences in Behavioral Responses to Stress and/or The Fascinating History of Stress Theory.

3. Divide class into six groups.

4. Position each group in an area of the classroom and tape a sheet of poster board to the wall by each group. Each poster should feature one of the headings below:

  • Situations that Make Me Angry
  • Situations that Frustrate Me
  • Situations that Make Me Worry
  • Situations that Make Me Happy
  • Situations that Take a Lot of Time
  • Situations that Take Money

5. Tell each group they have 1-2 minutes to write down their responses.

6. After 2 minutes, have students rotate to the poster to their right and add their comments for the heading on the poster.

7. Continue rotating until each group has added to the other 5 posters.

8. Have a reporter from each group read the responses on the poster in front of them.

9. Discuss similarities and insights.

10. Discuss which responses alleviate or create stress.

11. Have students return to their seats. As a class, brainstorm appropriate and healthy strategies to cope with the stressful situations.

Bubble Breaths

Imagine you are blowing up a large bubble. Take in a deep breath, and steadily and slowly blow up your huge bubble. See the bubble getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Now close your eyes and imagine the bubble floating into the air. As you stand there, feel yourself becoming very quiet and peaceful. Repeat this exercise 2 or 3 times.

This exercise is good to help you focus on breathing deep into your stomach to help you relax.

Child’s Pose

Child’s Pose is a simple relaxation position in yoga.

In this pose, have everyone position their bodies facing the floor in a fetal position. The knees and hips are bent, shins on the floor. The chest rests on the knees. The head is stretched forward towards the ground – with the forehead touching the ground. Stretch the arms forward in front, imagining you can touch the wall on the far side of the room or backwards towards the feet. Relax into the pose. Deepen your stretch and focus on your breath.

Hold for two minutes. See how refreshed you feel.

Standing Up Against Discrimination

Help students identify acts of discrimination and explore ways to safely stand up against discrimination. You will need chart paper, markers and the Don’t Discriminate worksheet. See web link: http://bit.ly/dontdiscriminate123
Have students pretend that someone made the decision that everyone who is wearing sneakers today will not be allowed to eat lunch in the cafeteria (or perhaps will be allowed to eat in some other location on campus that is desirable to students, i.e., outside).

1. Discuss answers to the following with a partner:
* In this situation, how would you feel if you were wearing sneakers?
* Is it reasonable for someone to decide where people can eat lunch based on what they’re wearing?
* What if it was decided that only students who were wearing boots could eat in the desired location, and you were wearing boots but your best friend wasn’t?
* What feelings would you have?

2. As a class, discuss the following:
* If you were the one being discriminated against, what would you do?
* What would you do if you saw another person being discriminated against?
A stranger? A classmate? A friend?

3. Now read Don’t Discriminate to learn about real-life examples of discrimination and how people stood up against it. What are some other ways they could safely stand up against discrimination?

4. Check out the website above for more ideas, like…
* In small groups, write skits illustrating
1) an act of discrimination and
2) how people stand up against it.
Perform the skits.
* In large or small group, ask students to create a shared record of their reactions to this experience, without speaking. Provide chart paper, a blank wall mural or the chalkboard. Each records a thought, feeling or question with written words or images. More than one person may write at a time. Once everyone has had a chance to contribute, dialogue about what it reveals. They may draw lines to connect related comments and answers to questions.


This is an experiential activity that helps students/participants understand the feeling of being excluded or of excluding others, and it provides an opportunity to practice group problem solving. It is effective with upper elementary students through adults.

Ask four volunteers to leave the room. Because these four, the outsiders, will be temporarily excluded from the group they must be willing volunteers.

Ask the rest of the group, the insiders, to make two circles, standing shoulder to shoulder. Tell them to pretend that they all are going to a party; however, the outsiders who left the room are not invited. When the outsiders return to the room, they will try to get into one of the circles so that they may be included in the party plans. The inside people are not to let the outsiders in. They may not use force, but may ignore the outside people. (As a variation the inside people may be told that they must listen to the outside people before making up their minds.)

Tell the outside people the instructions that were given to the inside people before letting them back into the room to try to get into the circle. Assign two outside people to each circle. Give them about five minutes. (As a variation repeat the exercise with four different volunteers.)

After completing the activity, form one large circle and ask the outsiders what it felt like to be outside. Ask the insiders what it felt like to be inside. Then discuss who might feel like an insider or an outsider in real life, and how it affects people to be inside or outside of a group.

Calming Through Visualization

Visualizing about nature is known to calm the mind and can work wonders in anger management. You can conduct this activity in a group or one to one. Ask participants to close their eyes and relax. Paint a mental image for the group by calmly describing a beautiful, relax- ing, refreshing scene. Talk about anything from nature that evokes peaceful calm such as mountains, a river, a beach, a forest etc. Ask them to visualize the scene as you lead them through it. If possible, weave a story around the imagery to which the group can relate.

Problem Puppets Role Play a Negotiation

Objectives: Young students will practice negotiation skills using puppets to role play conflicts.
Materials: Problem solving puppets – at least two.

Margaret and Sarah were arguing over a set of blocks. Each believed that it was their turn to get the blocks. The teacher intervened, called the class together, and showed students two puppets. “These are the problem puppets, and they will help us solve the problem Margaret and Sarah are having,” the teacher says.

With younger students negotiation and mediation procedures may be taught with problem puppets. Puppets can provide young children enough distance from a conflict to discuss their behavior without feeling threatened.
1. Use the puppets to reenact the conflict.
2. Freeze the puppet role play at a critical point in the conflict. Ask the class for suggestions on ways to resolve the conflict. Incorporate one of these suggestions, and finish the puppet play.
3. Repeat the puppet play until several different suggestions for solving the conflict have been suggested. Discuss whether or not each one will work. This helps children learn to think through the consequences of their suggestions.
4. Ask the children to pick the suggestion they think will work best.

The problem puppets can then be retired.

Take Action on Reconciliation Day

Advice columnist Ann Landers is responsible for popularizing the April 2 celebration of Reconciliation Day, as a day to try to try to patch up a broken or strained relationship. In South Africa, Reconciliation Day is celebrated on December 16. The Worldwide Forgiveness Alliance promotes the first Sunday in August as International Forgiveness Day, hoping to spread awareness about the healing power of forgiveness to create “a safer, more joyful and peaceful world.”

Activity Idea: Draft an apology letter to someone that you may have hurt.

Instructions: Have students write a private apology letter or card to anyone they have harmed, such as a friend, a parent, or a sibling. Allow them to reflect on their thoughts and difficulties in the exercise.

Reflection Questions:
Are apologies difficult, easy, or does it depend?
Are there qualities that make one apology better than another for the receiver?
Would you ever consider actually delivering the letter you wrote?

Alternative Idea: Write a tribute letter to a peacemaker in your world that may not be getting the appreciation they deserve.

CREducation.org Resource: You can find a wealth of resources on Restorative Practices on the Conflict Resolution Education Connection.
See: www.creducation.org/cre/goto/rp

Promote Restorative Practices

When someone does something that hurts another person, teachers and administrators feel compelled to respond and help out, quite often by resorting to various forms of punishment directed at the wrong-doer. However, in recent years, an alternative approach for responding to harm has been gaining ground. It focuses more on addressing the needs of victims, involving a broader community of supporters, and finding ways for the offender to work their way back into the good graces of the community. In states like Colorado, Minnesota and Michigan, educators are implementing a variety of restorative discipline alternatives to traditional measures such as detention, suspension, expulsion, and police charges.

Activity Idea: Print up an affective questions list, decorate it appropriately and post it in prominent places to remind conflict intervenors to think restoratively. Alternatively, how about creating some bookmarks? Here’s a good list of questions that promote self and other awareness when a wrongdoing has occurred.

Affective questions:
What happened?
How did it happen?
How did you act in this situation?
Who do you think was affected?
How were they affected?
How were you affected?
What needs to happen to make things right?
If the same situation happens again how could you behave differently?

Ambassadors for Peace

Time Required: One class period
Main Idea: Understanding the process through which conflict may be resolved.
Objectives: Students will research information on Nobel Peace Prize winners to determine the qualities of peacemakers.
1. Place students in small groups. Ask students to think of all of the qualities of someone they would consider a peacemaker, and web their ideas using a graphic organizer. Then have them share the qualities with the total group.

2. Tell students the story of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist, inventor, and industrialist whose invention, dynamite, earned him a fortune. With this fortune, he established the Nobel Prize to award those people who had the greatest benefit on mankind. There are several categories of prizes – chemistry, physics, etc., but the one for focus in this lesson is the Nobel Peace Prize. Instruct students that their task will be to find out about an individual Peace Prize winner’s characteristics, personal quotations or thoughts about peace, and the deeds they performed to work toward peace. Then, pair with another student who researched another winner, and compare what the two winners of this prize had in common. Use markers and record this on a piece of chart paper. Use a Venn diagram.

3. Model for students: To demonstrate how this will be done, read biographical information about the XIVth Dalai Lama. Instruct students to make three columns on a piece of paper for note taking. Label the columns: I) Characteristics,
2) Thoughts about peace, and 3) Deeds. As you are reading, stop and have students identify these and place them on their paper as notes.

Some of the characteristics of this man are: The Dalai Lama is described as a simple man, a Buddhist monk. He lives in a small cottage, meditates, teaches, works with people in the government, and partiCipates in religious ceremonies. Some of the deeds of this man are:
In his struggle for the liberation of his homeland, Tibet, he consistently has opposed the use of violence. He has sought peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.

The following thoughts came from a speech by the Dalai Lama:
“Even if you don’t believe in any religion, you should respect others’ beliefs. All religions believe in a true sense of brotherhood, a good heart, and respect for others. If we can have these qualities, we can actually achieve peace.”

“The self must be placed last. I personally feel that this concern for others is lacking today. Many of the problems that we have today are because of our hatred. As human beings we have good qualities as well as bad. Anger, jealousy, and hatred are the bad side; these are the real enemy. Our real enemy, then, or troublemaker, is inside ourselves. Basically, the most important thing is a good heart.”

“Everybody appreciates kindness. If you respect him, your enemy will become your friend.”

4. Have students work individually to find information on someone who has won the Nobel Peace Prize:
Mikhail Gorbachev Anwar Sadat Oscar Arias-Sanchez
Martin Luther King, Jr. Willy Brandt Rigoberta Menchu
Nelson Mandela Henry Kissinger Lech Walesa
Desmond Tutu Mother Teresa Menachem Begin

5. Have students work in pairs to make a comparison chart, comparing two of the winners using a Venn Diagram.
6. Have students present their comparisons. Then have them look at the qualities compiled in the Motivating Activity. Have them evaluate how close they were in knowing what qualities a peacemaker has.
7. Ask students to identify people (perhaps a family member, friend, teacher, etc.) they know who they feel could be a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. Have students write a paragraph about the qualities, deeds, and thoughts of this person and why they feel the individual is deserving of such recognition.
8. Have students write an essay on “How I Can Be a Peacemaker.”

Birthday Party for the Peace Symbol

March 4 is the birthday for the now famous peace symbol. It was unveiled at a British “ban-the-bomb” rally on April 4, 1958. Learn about the origins of the peace symbol and then have a party and invite all the other world symbols for peace to attend.

For a good start to your invite list check out the symbols at:

The Heart Story

This activity, which can be adapted for children from Kindergarten through 6th grade, encourages students to consider the effect of “put-downs” and to think about how to express “put-ups.”

About Put-Ups and Put-Downs:
Before you begin the activity, have a discussion with students about “put-ups” and “put-downs.” Explain that a put-down is a negative comment about a person. Elicit examples of put-downs from the story or from life (but don’t write them down so as not to reinforce them). Ask the children what they think a put-up is. Elicit examples of put-ups. Make a chart of put-ups. Explain that in our classroom, put-downs are not allowed. Put-ups are welcome. When you and the students hear people using put-ups, you can acknowledge them and add them to the chart.

Telling the Heart Story:
Make two hearts from construction paper. Explain that our feelings and our classroom community are greatly affected by how we talk to each other. This exercise illustrates the effects of put-downs. Tape one of the hearts to your chest. Tell the children a story like the one below, tailored to their age and experience. Each time the child in the story experiences a put-down, rip off a piece of the heart and let it fall to the floor. By the end of the story, the heart will be in pieces.

Discuss: How is _________ feeling? Have you ever had a day like this?
Now tape the second heart on your chest and retell the story with the children supplying put-ups instead of put-downs. When the child receives put-ups, color in the heart with crayons or markers of various colors. Discuss: How is _________ feeling now? What does this exercise suggest for our classroom?

The Heart Story:

Jane* had not slept well, and when her father called, she didn’t get up. A few minutes later, her father shouted, “Get up, lazybones!”
When Jane went into the kitchen for breakfast, her brother was just pouring the last of the cereal into his bowl. “That’s what you get for oversleeping,” he teased.

Jane dressed in a new combination she thought looked cool, but when her sister saw her, she laughed. “That looks stupid,” she said.

Jane changed clothes, grabbed her book bag, and ran out the door to school. She decided to take a short cut. “Hey, what are you doing around this block?” some boy called to her. “We don’t like your type around here.”

“You’re late!” the teacher said when she came into her classroom. He wrote her name on the board. Later, the teacher asked her to read aloud. When she said one of the words wrong, some of the kids laughed.

At lunch, when Jane went to sit down with some girls, they said, “No room here. You’ll have to sit over there.”

On the way home from school, Jane was running along and tripped over a crack in the pavement. She went sprawling down on the street and ripped a hole in her pants.

When her mother saw Jane, she saw the hole before she saw the rest of her. “You ruined your pants,” she said. “I can’t keep you in decent clothes!”

* Substitute a name for Jane that is not the name of anyone in your class.

Gossip Line-Up

Materials: 3 pieces of paper, labeled “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “It depends.” Masking Tape.
Purpose: To explore ideas and assumptions about gossip, a common source of conflict. Appropriate for Grades 7-12.
Time: 15 minutes.

Directions: Post the three sheets of paper in different places in the room. Ask the participants to listen to the first statement about gossip, listed below, and move to the appropriate area of the room, depending on whether they agree or disagree with the statement. When everyone has moved, ask one or two people from each group to explain their response. If participants change their minds while listening to the reasoning of others, they are free to move to another spot in the room. Let the conversation continue as long as everyone seems engaged, then move on to the next statement.

1. Gossip is never true.
2. Gossip always hurts someone.
3. Everyone gossips to some extent.
4. Males gossip as much as females.
5. Gossip can be addictive: the more you hear, the more you want to hear.
6. People gossip because it makes them feel better about themselves.
7. People gossip in order to make sense of what is going on around them

Variations: Adjust the statements about gossip to make them more relevant to your group. Note: Gossip is often associated with women and girls, so you may want to think about how you might respond to any stereotyping that comes up.