Peace Ambassadors at the River School, Australia – by Ann Donoghoe

Peace Ambassadors at The River School Melany, Australia

By Ann Donoghoe, Principal

The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example – John Wooden

Peace Ambassadors (PA) is a student mentoring and leadership program in its second year at the River School. The program is open to Yr. 6 students who are keen to learn Restorative Practice methods to assist their younger peers resolve low-level playground conflict in a peaceful and restorative manner.

To qualify as a Peace Ambassador students must participate in three training sessions with Ann Donoghoe, member of Restorative Practices International, and Principal of the beautiful River School.

The first session begins with students defining the role of a Peace Ambassador using a group brainstorming process. The qualities are identified, scribed and discussed. This is followed with a three-step activity to explore the big picture in order to determine what the students envisage a ‘peaceful playground’ would look like (adapted from — Positive Peace in Schools Tackling Conflict and Creating a Culture by Hilary Cremin and Terence Bevington).

The second training session starts with students reflecting on what they decided were the ‘most important’ indicators of a peaceful playground. The selected indicators are made into a charter for their classroom to guide students as Peace Ambassadors while on ‘duty’. The students are introduced to Restorative Practice through two short video clips — A Short Introduction to Restorative Approaches by Luke Roberts and A mini video tutorial on Restorative Practice by Benn’s Beaches.

Following the videos students discussed Traditional (What happened? Who’s to Blame? What punishment do they deserve?) and Restorative (What happened?, Who’s been harmed?, What needs to happen to repair the harm?) approaches to conflict.

To clarify the role of a restorative Peace Ambassador, students agreed on the following four steps:

  • Identify the harm, who has been affected and how
  • Repair the Harm, using Restorative Chat
  • Repair the Relationship
  • Restore the Peace. Students then worked in small groups to role-play conflict scenarios using the restorative chat questions — What happened? Who has been affected? How can we/you fix this?

In the final training session, a ‘fish bowl’ approach is used to practice the restorative chat. This involves students sitting in a semi circle while one group acts out a conflict situation, which they then use a restorative approach to repair. At the end of each role-play, the audience (other students) have the opportunity to ask questions and to make positive suggestions on ways to improve the way the conflict was handled. At the end of this session, students are excited to receive their PA vests and name tags.

Since completing the training our PAs are very active in the playground. They also present a weekly report at our whole School Morning Circle to share the kind behaviours they have spotted in the playground. We are very proud of the ‘serve to lead’ role our Yr. 6 students voluntarily take on as River School Peace Ambassadors.

“Sá vidyá yá vimuktaye - Education is that which liberates”