Rebecca Janke, M.Ed and Julie Penshorn, MBC
Co-authors, and co-directors of Growing Communities for Peace, Rebecca Janke, M.Ed and Julie Penshorn, MBC, are thought leaders within the children's peace education field. They have had a fascinating journey, beginning with a focus on conflict resolution skills education, complete with hands-on-learning tools, and now introducing children’s books and music along with a blog-based approach to the creation of a culture of peace.
Children's Peace Education Company and Smart Tools for Life
are projects of Growing Communities for Peace. It serves parents and educators by combining excellence in pedagogy with story-telling and children’s music, making it easy and engaging to bring state-of-the-art peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding skills to young children, thereby encouraging more harmonious, sustainable relationships with others and the planet.
Our materials are designed to develop peace literacy as they educate, entertain, and empower all those involved to strengthen families, classrooms, and neighborhoods. We also provide resources for restorative justice, personal defense, and other skills necessary to support and maintain a culture of peace.
We recognize, it's not just what we teach that matters, but how we teach. Children don’t care how much we know, they want to know how much we care. Therefore, we build care into everything we do. Our professionally designed and published children’s books are moving and educational, prompting children to reach into their hearts as well as their minds. Our blog posts intellectually stimulate, and increase the social and emotional capacity of the parents and teachers in such a way that children can see they care.
Getting an early start
The primary focus of Children’s Peace Education Company: Smart Tools for Life is writing young children's stories and creating music for kids, through the inspiration of advanced peace education topics usually reserved for adults. This allows children to get an early start, when these concepts and ways of thinking can become part of who they are. In addition, the site provides material focused on parenting matters, pedagogic excellence, art of dialogue, curriculum infusion techniques, and examples of peace of in action.
Weaving the Threads Together
In the post-writing years of this project, Julie went on to pursue her equestrian goals, completing her Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medal requirements for the United States Dressage Federation and becoming a Certified Instructor and Trainer. Working primarily with girls and women, issues of past violence in their lives continually emerged. Her job was training them to overcome their fear of large animals as one of the first steps in moving beyond victimization. Many problems that leaders face are huge. Riding helped the girls to have a history of responding to large challenges.
“Working with horses is entirely about leadership. Without an assertive leader, the horse most often follows his or her own desires -- which can be dangerous! Riders learn the physical skills to manage their body in order to communicate their own version of speaking truth to power,” Julie said.
Always a writer and a singer/songwriter, Julie was excited to begin again with Rebecca and to immerse herself in something for her “mature” years!
Rebecca continued to broaden people's understanding of developing a culture of peace in the community as the President of the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, (MAP), serving as an artist-in-resident in schools, providing in-service teacher trainings locally and nationally, writing as an international columnist on peace education, and working with the Human Rights and Peace Online Bookstore with Kristi Rudelius-Palmer, a co-director of the Human Rights Center at the University of Minnesota.
Much of her time was devoted to bringing quality peace education material to educators and social workers at their professional development annual or national conferences. Her awareness of newly published material allows her to find the perfect match between a current need or goal of an individual professional who is looking for something that "works on the ground" or addresses a current struggle in their family or personal life.
Rebecca’s important role as President of MAP
One very significant achievement happened when she was the President of MAP and the National Republican Convention was held in her region, in 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota. Due to threats of hostile political protest, she guided the organization to constructive action. Through dialogue, they decided to provide a training by Father Peter from Michigan to train a group of nonviolent protectors who would act as a buffer zone between protestors and police. The Chief of Police responded to their invitation to discuss ways nonviolent tactics could be used as well. The convention took place without large acts of violence.
Now elders, Julie and Rebecca believe it is time to circle back, bringing their well-honed, diverse skills, insights, and connections with other thought leaders, to children, especially through their parents, and educators.
These co-authors make it their business to be aware of new ideas, strategies and discoveries that solve today’s problems. Their unusual talent of bringing this kind of information to young children makes it possible for parents and children to understand how to contribute to a growing culture of peace and feel they are part of a breakthrough that is catching on in the hearts and minds of people worldwide.
Through their work, they have witnessed, as Maria Montessori did, that children are naturally responsive to creating a culture of peace and have much to contribute as well. It's up to us to provide the kind of environment for their natural tendencies to unfold and give them many years to practice just like we do with math, reading, and writing.
Jorry Keith, Illustrator
Jorry Keith is a storyboard artist, illustrator, and instructor. She is the writer and the illustrator of the comic book, Seafoam: A Friend for Madison. A strong believer in the arts, and its importance in children's lives, Jorry runs several community-based art classes that guide children through the process of writing and drawing their own comics and books.
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