The International Day of Peace was observed Sept. 21, but for two classes at Highland Park Elementary School, the celebration inspired a week of activities.

Students in Rachel Schlabach's kindergarten and Carrie O'Brien's cross-categorical classrooms marked "Peace Week" Sept. 18-22.

Each day, the students spent time together participating in activities and discussions related to getting along with others.

It's the second year Schlabach and O'Brien have organized the program.

"We were noticing that the building was lacking in some social skills," O'Brien said. "We wanted to find a way to help reinforce those skills and the idea of showing compassion and consideration for others in our students."

The issue can be particularly acute for kindergarten students, many of whom are spending extended time away from home and interacting with a large number of children for the first time, she said.

Last year, the week's activities were held in early spring, but the teachers decided to link their program with the International Day of Peace, nearer to the beginning of the school year.

"We're hoping to instill something the students can carry with them through the rest of the school year and beyond," O'Brien said.

The week began with a discussion of "what is peace," Schlabach said.

"Each day we had a different theme," including compassion, cooperation and resolving conflicts, she said.

During the day devoted to resolving conflicts, each student was asked to talk about a conflict they had faced and how they resolved it.

On the last day of the week, the students sat in a circle and gave an example of an action they are taking to be a peacemaker.

The students shared ideas that included cleaning their room, picking up their toys, complimenting someone about the shirt they are wearing, doing something nice for another person and collecting money for the homeless.

O'Brien read the book "Bear Feels Sick," which tells the story of how Bear's friends pitch in to care for him when he falls ill and how he returns the favor when his friends begin ailing.

To wrap up the week, the students drew a picture and wrote a message to one of the new friends they made during Peace Week.

O'Brien's class includes students in grades K-4, each of whom has an intellectual disability.

"Bringing our classes together helps our students learn about about accepting and appreciating the differences we all have," she said.

It also gives the students a chance to get to know other youngsters beyond their classroom, Schlabach said.

Peace Week has an impact on students, she said.

"You'll hear them remind each other, 'That's not right. You're not being a peacemaker,' " and it makes you feel they are remembering the lessons of Peace Week," Schlabach said. "Hopefully, it will continue."

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