International School Peace Gardens
The International School Peace Gardens (ISPG) is an educational program that was launched in 1994 to commemorate the UN's 50th Anniversary. This innovative program promotes the use of peace gardens to cultivate global peace through holistic education, cultural understanding, and environmental protection. The aim of ISPG is to encourage schools to utilize this program as a strategy for non-violence in schools by including it in their anti-violence and anti-racist curriculum. The program has been recognized around the world as holistic and global education enhancing international relationships as well as nurturing global peace and protecting the environment.
In March 1998 OPA partnered with ISPG on a rather unique peace garden project that was displayed at Landscape Ontario's Congress Trade Show. Students aged 9 to 12 gathered in a Markham Community Centre to create pieces of artwork that would help form the panels of a peace garden display. These panels (63” x 25”) were painted to reflect the young artists’ feelings and ideas on peace gardens and the environment. The panels were assembled as a frame for the garden booth. At the conclusion of this project each of the panels was donated to a local seniors’ centre in the name of the young artists and the ISPG program.
In June 2014, the Board that was governing ISPG decided it was time to commence a “Voluntary Revocation of Charitable Status,” effectively putting an end to this program. Julia Morton-Marr (founding president of ISPG) had contacted OPA on other matters and as a side note advised that ISPG was in the process of winding down. After numerous discussions it was decided that this program needed to continue being offered and that OPA would be the perfect association to take over its operations. Our mandate of Protecting Tomorrow Today® along with ISPG's mission to educate our youth about protecting our environment and keeping the peace in schools around the world made this partnership a perfect fit.
About the Peace Gardens
The Peace Gardens are unique in that, although they have different plants and locations, they have four common elements - an Inuksuk, two benches, a Peace Pathway and a Peace Tree. Each of these elements of the garden have value and are symbolic.
The Inuksuk (pronounced IN-OOK-SHOOK), an Inuit word meaning "in the image of man," is the central focus of a Peace Garden. Built by Inuit, you can see Inuksuks standing along Canada's most northern shores. One of their purposes was to serve as directional markers on the treeless horizons, to guide those that followed by pointing toward the Arctic Ocean.
The Inuksuk is part of the garden as a symbol of leadership, encouraging the importance of friendship, and reminding us of our dependence on one another.
The gardens includes two benches - the Friendship Bench and the Bench of Dreams.
The Friendship Bench is a tool supporting friendly ways of resolving conflicts. Students are encouraged to leave their resentments outside of the garden and discuss their concerns on the Friendship Bench.
The Bench of Dreams concept originated from Chancellor Robert Muller, UN University for Peace in Costa Rica, as a place to gather and to explore local community needs.
They also have a practical purpose as a place to sit and spend time in nature
Throughout the garden, leading to the Inuksuk and the benches is the Peace Pathway. It reminds us that whenever we walk in life, we will walk in peace with our neighbours.
The concept of a peace garden is derived from the ancient traditions of the Greek, Viking and Gaelic peoples. People were encouraged to settle their conflict in a peace grove, an oval space where twelve trees were grown. Typically the peace tree is planted as part of the ground breaking celebration. The picture to the left is the ground breaking celebration for A.G. Hodge School in Ontario Canada in 1998.
The heart and soul of this programs lies with the schools that dedicate their time to getting involved. So many amazing schools have built their own Peace Garden with their students, faculty and families. Click here to see a full list of schools involved.