SPRINGFIELD, Ohio (WDTN) – A program here is carrying on a decades-long tradition of spreading peace.
Monday kicked off the 32nd annual Peace Camp at Roosevelt Middle School in Springfield. The free, week-long day camp tailors lessons in peace to children from age four to the sixth grade.
“Research has shown that when you start it young, teaching them, then they can learn and build on it as they grow,” explained Christina Walters, the executive director at the Springfield Peace Center.
Monday’s opening day split campers into age groups with teenage ‘mediators’ acting as camp counselors. Teachers, volunteers and guest speakers engaged the students with age-appropriate activities to build conflict resolution skills.
They played games to learn teamwork, participated in discussions and activities to improve listening skills and created arts and crafts to promote positive expression.
“I want them to know different outlets for how to release anger or aggression,” Walters said. “I want others to appreciate differences in other kids: the diversity.”
This year’s camp theme is “Spread Peace” and Walters said throughout the week, the students will learn about building self-esteem, the I-Care rules, understanding differences, conflict management skills, being a peacemaker and caring for the Earth.
She said many campers return every year and some eventually volunteer as teen mediators in high school. The leaders said they continue learning new strategies each year.
“(I learned) how in the real world I can intervene peacefully and not make the conflict worse,” said Sarah Schubert, 14, a Peace Camp mediator.
Schubert added that addressing bullying and violence should be a community effort.
“I think everyone needs to learn lessons in peace. I think everyone needs to be able to go out into the world and not start conflicts over little things,” Schubert said.
Parents and caregivers are holding their own discussion during the camp and the week’s activities will conclude with a community picnic on Thursday, June 7th from 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Roosevelt Middle School to showcase what campers are learning at Peace Camp.
You can learn more about the Springfield Peace Center and Peace Camp here.