Originally a restorative justice concept, the peace circles are now widely recognized as an effective social/emotional learning strategy that helps students identify and give voice to issues they are facing at home, community, and school. Using a talking piece that travels around the circle, students begin by constructing a safe environment for discussion. They then explore topics that engage participants in reflection. The focus is not on debate and argumentation, but simply to enable young people to express their feelings in an open and honest environment where respect, integrity and caring are foundational values.
In the spirit of Cesar E. Chavez, peace circles represent a strategy of non-violence by enabling students to get to know each other and thereby break down isolation, preconceived notions, and ignorance of each other. One student said: "I have been in class all year with you and barely noticed you. Today I got to know you. I'll see you in such a different way from now on."
Following their training, the students are challenged to return to their schools and develop a strategy to implement peace circle strategies at their schools to complete their service-learning projects.
More than 300 studens will come together on March 26 at Benito Juarez Community for the annual Day of Reflection. Students will create banners, murals, street theatre skits, songs and chants, and then join together for a Chavez Commemorative March through the streets of Pilsen.