UPEI psychology students partner with junior and high school students on projects devoted to peace

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a group of people standing in a wooded area behind several newly planted trees
Students and leaders during their research trip to Mooney鈥檚 Pond near Mount Stewart where they collected invertebrate samples and planted trees in what they now call the 鈥淕lobal Peace Grove.鈥.

Dr. Stacey MacKinnon, associate professor of psychology at UPEI, hosted a celebration for 16 senior undergraduate students taking a special topics psychology of good and evil course, and international junior and senior high school students from the , the lab school for the Montessori Foundation, on Sunday, June 4, at the UPEI Canadian Centre for Climate Change and Adaptation (CCCCA) in St. Peter鈥檚 Bay.

鈥淚t鈥檚 been a lot of fun putting this project together,鈥 said MacKinnon during an interview with CBC PEI Mainstreet. 鈥淭he goal was to create materials that would be used by parents, schools, and individuals to be able to encourage young people ages 12鈥22 (the same age as the students involved) in incorporating a more peaceful approach to life, a more peace-based mindset so that we can start from the ground up, building the peaceful world that we want to have.鈥

In the fall of 2023, MacKinnon鈥檚 senior undergraduates and the NewGate students teamed up with the  in Maryland to become peace-certified and create educational materials for youth around the world. At the recent celebration, the students received their peace certificates, displayed their projects, and raised funds for the foundation. Dr. Jeni Stepanek, founding director of the foundation, attended via Zoom, along with alumni of the psychology of good and evil course from the past 12 years, and some students and teachers who were unable to physically attend.

MacKinnon said during the interview that the event was a fantastic opportunity for the UPEI students to act as collaborators, not just mentors. Participants worked on six peace projects ranging from a 鈥渒indness journal鈥 with guided props to a story about a young person who was afraid of the dark and how perspectives can shift based on those experiences. The aim was to provide accessible and easy-to-use activities to bring forward the idea that peace is a choice in how people live in and respond to the world.

鈥淭he goal with this project was to bring in this age group from 12鈥22 with an eye towards collaboration as partners,鈥 she said. 鈥淰aluing everyone鈥檚 perspective, whether you鈥檙e younger or older, from any country that was represented, and any perspectives that came into play as well. Putting younger students with the older students was wonderful because they live in different worlds, so bringing those intergenerational worlds together was exciting for my students. Peace is something we always talk about as being 鈥榦ut there,鈥 but the reality is it starts from inside. It starts with every person deciding what they want the world they live in to look like. We鈥檙e always going to be in conflict; that鈥檚 going to happen. But we don鈥檛 have to have it turn into things like wars. We have to find ways to be able to respect and coexist when we disagree with people because we aren鈥檛 all the same and we shouldn鈥檛 be. Difference is our strength as much as similarity is. When we talk about these kinds of ideas, it starts from within."

During the interview, Elizabeth Hale, co-director at NewGate School鈥檚 Global Campus, said she became an educator because Montessori wrote a book called Education for Peace, and she believes in helping students find peace within themselves. She wants them to be grounded in that personally so they can bring peace into every community they touch.

鈥淲e have created an online community of 18 students on three different continents. We came together at the climate centre at UPEI, and it鈥檚 been really wonderful to be together. Learning about all the different perspectives and experiences has been great for my students. Togetherness and sharing are our future and the more that we can see helping each other in a peaceful way, the better,鈥 she said.

The celebration concluded a week-long end-of-the-year research trip at the CCCCA for the NewGate Global Campus students and teachers.

To learn more about how to participate in making peace possible, visit .

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