This week, I had the opportunity to be “Parent of the Day” at my daughter’s preschool, Eden Cooperative Nursery School, in Eden, New York. We chose this school for her specifically because it was community-based, cooperative (meaning it is co-owned by the families and teachers) and utilized the Montessori method of education. One of the things that first drew my interest several years ago to the Montessori approach to early childhood education was the Peace Table. The Peace Table is a place in the classroom for children to resolve conflicts between themselves. (I can hear you’re thinking : preschoolers resolving conflict by themselves? REALLY?). Really.
The Montessori approach is to education focuses on teaching children through the practical environment. And while it stresses independence, it also builds interdependence through modeling relationship skills to children. So when children have an escalating conflict in the Montessori classroom, they are invited to the Peace Table where they talk through their problems.
In most classrooms, the “Peace Talk” begins by ringing a bell, placing a hand on the heart or holding the Peace Rose to signal whose turn it is to talk, and then using “I” statements to describe the feelings they experienced due to each other’s behavior, apologizing and working out the problem. Teachers may help children through this process early on in the year but as time goes on in the classroom, the children will usually start to go to the table themselves when needed.
The Peace Table and Talk are part of an overall approach to peace education that is included in the Montessori method. Watch the great video clip below that describes how children benefit from early education in peace and conflict resolution.