Blessed are the peacemakers — no matter what age

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It has been said that “an apology is the superglue of life. It can repair just about anything.”

Learning when to say you’re sorry and how to share were just some of the simple life lessons being taught to youngsters at the 13th Annual Conference on Conflict Resolution.

The daylong event at the William Alexander Middle School 51 in Park Slope educates sixth−grade students on positive ways to interact with others and shows them how to bring peaceful solutions to difficult situations. Administrators hope the children will use their newfound knowledge to become more tolerant and accepting of others.

“Not every conflict is going to have an easy solution, but one thing is certain, if you ignore a problem, it is not going to go away,” said keynote speaker, Judy DeAngelis, a broadcast journalist with 1010 WINS. “While conflicts can happen very quickly, solutions do not, so don’t react without thinking.”

DeAngelis advised that conflict resolution can be broken up into four major components: understanding the problem through an open exchange of ideas, avoiding violence and bickering, enlisting the help of others, and finally arriving at a solution that is beneficial to all parties.

Students attended various workshops to explore this strategy further.

Elisabeth Wilhelm, a model UN trainer for UNA−USA Global Classroom, simulated a UN−style debate where the students pretended to be delegates, and discussed an issue that directly affected them −− whether or not movies that contain smoking should automatically rated PG−13.

“The UN has a very formal structure when it comes to debate and resolution writing so they don’t offend anyone,” explained Wilhelm. “It’s really interesting to try that process with middle school kids because they don’t naturally act diplomatic.”

Representatives from “Sesame Street” showed clips from their television shows to illustrate how they use various media to send a message of peace to pre−schoolers all over the world.

For example, in one clip from Northern Ireland, quintuplets explain how they have to share toys and take turns so that they can be fair to their siblings. In another segment, called “Word on the Street,” children explain the meaning of the word apology, then they demonstrate how to apologize, by turning to the camera and offering their most sincere “I’m sorry.’”

Then the instructors explained how clothing is a form of media and gave participants a blank piece of paper shaped like a t−shirt and had them draw their own message.

“I drew Elmo and he’s saying: ‘sharing is caring’ because it’s true.” explained Learsi Rodriguez. “When you share, you care about others and then others will care about you.”

Indeed, there were plenty of light−hearted activities to engage the youngsters, but there were also serious lessons as well.

Betty Knoop, a Dutch Holocaust survivor, gave a lecture explaining what childhood was like under a Nazi regime.

She had to surrender her toys and belongings. Her gold Star of David necklace was replaced by a cloth version with the word “Jood” – the Dutch word for Jew, emblazoned on it. Knoop was separated from her grandmother, uncle, and several cousins, only to later learn that they had perished in concentration camps.

“You are probably the last generation that will ever hear a Holocaust survivor speak,” she said. “I am asking you to become my witnesses so that you can tell my story when I am gone.”

Common Cents, the creators of Penny Harvest, a program that encourages children to collect pennies and donate them to feed the homeless, challenged participants to come up with other ways to help their community.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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