2012. Vol.3, No.1, 79-83
Published Online February 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/ce) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ce.2012.31013
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 79
Educating for Peace: A Case Study of a Constructivist Approach
to Understanding Peace through Artistic Expression
Young Imm Kang So ng
Creative Arts in Learning Division, Grad u a te School of Education, Lesley University, Massachusetts, USA
Received November 9th, 20 11; revised December 20th, 2011; accepted December 30th, 2011
This paper discusses a project called “Making a PEACE of Paper”, which illustrates how children can ex-
plore the meaning and idea of peace through art while, at the same time, understanding other cultures in a
meaningful and respectful way. It describes how students can use art and technology to overcome spatial
boundaries and exchange creative ideas with students in another country. It also considers how to create
“shared spaces” that may help students from different backgrounds to better understand each other’s cul-
tures. The visual art and technology projects, methods, and pedagogy discussed in this paper can be repli-
cated by teachers and community peace educators easily and with minimal (if any) costs. Through this
project, teachers and community peace educators may explore what “a peaceful future” means to students
and how they think this may be attained. This project provides an engaging framework for students to
share ideas, discover meaning, and advance their own understanding of peace through collaboration, dia-
logue, and creation of artworks that represent their ideas. It is flexible and adaptable to various contexts,
age groups, and settings. It also provides a model for authentic student voice in learning, extensive
higher-level thinking, and a platform for collectively reaching new insights. The goal of this project is to
provide a compelling way to allow students to “see” peace in a transformed way that will help lead to a
more peaceful society. It is hoped that this project will motivate teachers and community educators to
create a new vision of teaching this topic of peace.
Keywords: Peace Project; Art Education; Handmade Paper; Paper-Mâché Globe; Visual Art and
Technology Project; Cultural Studies; Peace Education; Peace-Building Activity;
In the age of terrorism and numerous violent conflicts all over
the world, the importance of educating children about the val-
ues of peace and cooperation has taken on newfound importance.
According to UNESCO, “The engagement of creativity from
an early age is one of the best guarantees of growth in a healthy
environment of self-esteem and mutual respect—critical ingre-
dients for building a culture of peace” (One World Classrooms,
2011). Mahatma Gandhi also stressed the importance of edu-
cating youth about peace at an early age: “If we are to teach
real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war
against war, we shall have to begin with the children” (Dayton
Peace Museum, 2011).
As such, it is important to develop a more modern view of
pedagogy and practice that can help children conceptualize an
understanding and a value system for peace in an educational
setting. The school setting provides an ideal space for exploring
ideas of peace through critical analysis, reflection, dialogue, and
collaborative learning. It is a safe space where students can ex-
perience new ideas and develop insights and understandings of
complex values like peace. Greene (2001) describes education
as “an initiation into new ways of seeing, hearing, feeling, mo-
ving. It signifies the nurture of a special kind of reflectiveness
and expressiveness, a reaching out for meanings, a learning to
learn” (p. 7). This makes education uniquely suited for addres-
sing this complex but important topic that is essential for 21st
century learners and citizens.
In this context, what kinds of projects would help students
have a meaningful discussion about “peace and its possibilities”
and explore these concepts in ways that they had not considered
before? It is appropriate to conduct such projects using art be-
cause art is a medium that has survived through history and is
able to express and communicate people’s experiences in a com-
mon way. Furthermore, the arts have “sometimes nurtured peace
and [at] other time s fostered violence. Art is a tool that can com-
municate and transform the way people think and act. Arts can
change the dynamics in intractable interpersonal, inter-commu-
nal, national, and global conflicts” (Shank & Schirich, 2008, p.
218). Art also has an important universal quality that transcends
race, nationality, religion and other barriers that often deter com-
munication and understanding. Ishaq (2004) notes that art is
independent and can help build friendship and communication
among y outh around the world while providing an excellent me-
dium for international cooperation and understanding (p. 41).
This paper will discuss an example of a project called “Mak-
ing a PEACE of Paper”1 that shows how children can explore
the meaning and idea of peace through art while, at the same
time, understanding other cultures in a meaningful and respect-
ful way. It describes how students can use art and technology to
overcome spatial boundaries and exchange creative ideas with
students in another country. It also considers how to create ‘shared
spaces’ that may help students from different backgrounds to
better understand each other’s cultures. The visual art and tech-
1The phrase “Making a PEACE of Paper” was coined by Professor Nathan
Felde at the Art Institute of Boston at Lesle
Y. I. K. SONG
nology projects, methods, and pedagogy discussed in this paper
can be replicated by teachers and community peace educators
easily and with minimal (if any) costs.
This section will describe how teacher Kim KyungSu’s sixth
grade class at Daeja Elementary School in Gwangju, South Ko-
rea came to unde rstand the concept of peace, crafted a vision for
peace, and expressed a shared hope for peace through the “Ma-
king a PEACE of Paper” project. It is important to note that this
project utilized a constructivist approach in which one activity
led into the next and was directly influenced by the ideas and
reactions of students. In replication, the ideas might lead the
project in a slightly different direction but would ultimately help
students reach important insights and understandings of peace.
The classroom project at Daeja Elementary consisted of five
steps. Each is discussed in turn below.
Writing a Found Poem
The definition of a found poem is “the poetic equivalent of a
collage in visual art. A found poem takes text from non-poem
sources and uses it to create a poem” (Clairenstein, 2011). Stu-
dents first took 15 minutes to walk around school grounds. Du-
ring this time, they used notepads to write words that they en-
countered that they liked, disliked, or for some reason piqued
their interest. At this point, students were not aware of why
they were “collecting” these words and did not know about the
project to follow.
After the students returned to the classroom, they were in-
structed to write a poem on the topic of peace by using only the
words that they had collected on their search and some preposi-
tions. Students found this process to be challenging at first due
to the requirement of only using words that they had found, but
were soon able to use their imagination and creativity to com-
pose a poem. This first opening activity invited students to think
about the word “peace” and to be creative in how they could
conceptualize it from a variety of source words.
Thinking about, Discussing, and Pantomiming Peace
To gain a better understanding of how the sixth grade stu-
dents thought about the idea of peace, the instructor then led a
discussion on the following topics: “How do you think about
peace?” and “What does peace look like to you?” During this
discussion, students overwhelmingly focused on national and
international issues, such as the unification of the Korean pen-
insula and world peace. It was intriguing that only these larger
issue s that were less directly palpable were discussed, rather than
issues of peace in the classroom, between friends, and amongst
neighbors. Based on this discussion, it was determined that the
appropriate role of an educator would be to help students com-
prehend that national and international peace stems from the
coming together of peaceful relationships that are much more
palpable and occur at a local level. In accordance, the instructor
engaged the students in a variety of activities that encouraged
them to further think about the concept of peace.
One such activity had students convey their understanding of
peace through pantomime. Students presented their interpreta-
tions to the class by acting out their abstract ideas in a way that
was comprehensible to others without utilizing words. Students
worked hard to convey their ideas in as concrete of a way as
possible, through body motions, facial expressions, and other
non-verbal cues. Through this process, it seemed that the stu-
dents were constantly reexamining their conceptualizations and
understandings of peace. After the pantomime activity, students
engaged in another discussion about what might cause peace to
be broken. One of the students’ main concerns was that violence
and wars would occur as groups and nations fight over a dwin-
dling supply of natural resources.
Creating Handmade Paper
To extend the idea of trying to mend and foster peace through
environmental protection, we decided to use junk mail to make
handmade paper that would be used for the subsequent active-
ties. Students were excited that they could make the art materi-
als for the activities on their own. They were also pleased by
the fact that they did not need to ask their parents to buy art ma-
terials for the activities. For a week, they created a lot of hand-
made paper with enthusiasm.
Following is how to make homemade paper using junk mail.
Rip the junk mail envelope into small bits.
Then, place the pieces of paper into the blender.
Add about 2 cups of water.
Run the blender slowly at first, and then increase th e speed.
It’s up to you how much you should increase the speed.
Depending on it, it’ll be smooth or rough.
Then, fill the papermaking tool.
When it stops dripping, take out the top part of the paper-
Place the screen on this top part of the tool.
Flip it upside down.
Take out the tool.
Add one more screen.
Dry the paper using a towel.
Take out the top screen.
If desired, add pressed leaves and some decorative items.
Air-dry the paper.
After creating the handmade paper, students deliberated about
what could be made with these sheets of paper and simultane-
ously convey the topic of peace. After this brainstorm, students
agreed on two projects: first to create several paper-mâché glo-
bes, and then to construct a three-dimensional model of a pea-
Creating a Paper-Mâché Globe with an Abstract
Portrayal of the Earth
The students decided to create paper-mâché globes with ab-
stract portrayals of the earth to visually capture the earlier dis-
cussion that expressed a concern that environmental destruction
could threaten peace. To create the physical structure that would
provide a frame, students used paper-mâché techniques. For the
spherical shape, they built up several layers by gluing old news-
paper around old beach balls. After it dried, students removed
the beach ball and were left with a paper-mâché globe that re-
tained the spherical shape. Students then completed the paper-
mâché globe by adding a layer of handmade paper from the
For the next part of this project, students worked in teams of
two to do an abstract watercolor painting on each of the paper-
mâché globes. Each team agreed on a specific theme on the to-
pic of peace. The final list of themes included, a beautiful earth,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Y. I. K. SONG
a suffering earth, a destroyed earth, a hopeful earth, and a pea-
ceful earth. To help students express more creativity, they were
encouraged to do abstract portrayals rather than realistic reflec-
ti ons. After some time to deliberat e, students drew abstract paint -
ings on the paper-mâché globe using watercolors and their ima-
gination. This creative expression allowed students to envision
dif ferent possible scenarios in a low-stakes context. John Dewey
(1910) suggested the value of this type of process noting, “Ima-
gination also enables us to try things out—again in the mind’s
eye—without the consequences we might encounter if we had
to act upon them empirically. It provides a safety net for expe-
riment and rehearsal (as cited in Eisner, 2002: p. 5).
The following is a selection of quotes from the teams’ deli-
berations while drawing on the globe.
“Let’s show how islands will start to disappear as sea levels
ke ep rising more and more. Jeju I sland and Tsushima Islan d will
probably disappear. Oh, but maybe there will be some volcanic
eruption that makes a new island, too.” (team theme: a suffering
earth; team members: SeungYeon & SeungJun).
“Like in the movie Tomorrow, when global warming gets
really bad, we’ll probably have a ‘little ice age’ where the earth
will gradually start to freeze. Let’s try to convey a ‘little ice
age’.” (team theme: a destroyed earth; team members: SuSeung
& MinSuong) (see Figure 1).
“Let’s use blue color to show how people are living together
peacefully. How about tan color to express being considerate?
And maybe purple color for showing happiness and joy?” (team
them: a peaceful earth; team members: SuA & YeRim) (see Fi-
Through this creation, these young students were “perceiving,
imagining, searching for meaning” (Greene, 2001: p.35). Their
comments during the project demonstrate their analytical think-
ing of creatively turning ideas into visual expression. SuSeung
from the “destroyed earth” team said, “We drew an earth that’s
angry because the environment is being destroyed. The red is-
land in the middle is a ‘trash island,’ and we thought of it as the
earth’s tears of blood” (see Figure 3).
“Do you want to draw about how we can show the earth that
we’re cheering for it? Yea, let’s paint a picture of cheering it on.”
(team theme: a hopeful earth; team members: MinJoo & Heey-
A destroyed earth, by SuSeu ng and Mi nSuong.
A peaceful earth, by SuA and YeRim.
Trash island, as the earth’s tears of blood, by SuSeung and MinSuong.
“Since the earth’s owner is nature and not humans, let’s fill it
up with flowers and trees. It’ll be like blowing life into the pa-
per globe.” (team theme: a beautiful earth; team members: Na-
Hyun & SeaJin) (s e e Figure 4).
MinJoo from the ‘hopeful earth’ team shared the following:
“In the world, there’s light and darkness. We believe that when
there’s destruction, there’s also renewal, and when there’s des-
pair, there’s also hope. If people destroyed the earth, then they
should also work to revive it. We believe that if there are argu-
ments, there should also be reconciliations. In our painting, we
tried to convey a prayer for Korean reunification as a recon-
ciliatory gesture” (see Figure 5).
This creative representation of peace and hope is made pos-
sible by allowing s tudents to use art to unleash im agina tion. Gre ene
(2001) describes this process of using imagination as a “Mode
of grasping, of reaching out that allows what is perceived to be
transformed” (p. 31).
The paintings reflected the students’ discussions about threats
to peace, which included environmental pollution and social up-
risings. In a meaningful way, these presentations provided an
opportunity for students to view and think about each other’s
artworks, and to explore each other’s perceptions. Although it
was clear that peace was still an intangible notion that was hard
to express in a concrete manner, the presentations conveyed a
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 81
Y. I. K. SONG
A beautiful earth, by NaHyun and SeaJin.
A hopeful earth, by MinJoo and HeeyYeon.
spirit of passion and the excitement of learning about peace.
They also provided students with a forum to unite their con-
cerns about environmental issues with their hopes and ideas for
peace in a novel way.
Making a Peaceful Place
As a final activity, students used the handmade paper from
earlier to create a three-dimensional model of a peaceful town.
They constructed farms, villages, skyscrapers, green shops, and
paved roads with handmade paper tiles. As I observed the stu-
dents over the course of the project, I noticed how their initial
thoughts and conceptualizations about peace gradually transfor-
med into more complex and sophisticated ideas as they used va-
rious methods of artistic expression and worked individually, in
pairs, and as a whole group to advance their thinking. This evo-
lution of ideas through dialogue and collaboration is a key goal
of student learning. Eisner (2002) suggests that “The ultimate
aim of education is to enable individuals to become the archi-
tects of their own education and through that process to conti-
nually reinvent themselves” (p. 2 40). Teacher K im KyungSu agr eed
and said, “I think this project was helpful for students to de-
velop more thoughtful ideas about peace. These kinds of expe-
riences will help them develop into successful individuals who
actually can accomplish a lot more than they might think.” It
was clear from the activity that students had greatly expanded
their understanding of what peace means and had thoughtfully
considered and conveyed this analysis to their peers through
their work. However, beyond the actual products of their work,
students had also learned greatly from each other and had the
opportunity to hear others views, be exposed to different points
of view, and experience different lenses for viewing a familiar
This connection to each other through shared ideas and the
advancement of students’ own thinking is an important addi-
tional outcome for this project. Eisner (2002) notes the value of
such this type of growth through the arts. “Education is the pro-
cess of learning to create ourselves and it is what the arts, both
as a process and as the fruits of that process, promote. Work in
the arts is not only a way of creating performances and products;
it is a way of creating our lives by expanding our consciousness,
shaping our dispositions, satisfying our quest for meaning, esta-
blishing contact w i t h others, and sharing culture” ( p . 3).
This series of activities was unique and challenging in that the
instructor did not pre-plan the entire agenda and sequence of
activities ahead of time. Instead, the instructor acted as a facili-
tator and helped formulate project ideas that were based on the
direction taken by the students’ discussions. For example, after
the papermaking activity, it was the students themselves who
really determined the nature of the project through which to
convey the topic of peace. This type of an open process fosters
a sense of leadership and ownership among st the students, which
may arguably result in a heightened degree of motivation and
engagement in the activity. It also allows students to be active
agents in t heir own learning process and view the mselves as im-
portant contributors rather than simply vessels to be filled with
After the conclusion of the project, students reflected on the
project and how it had impacted their thinking. “I used to think
that world peace could only be achieved by governments. I didn’t
feel like there was anything I could do, personally. But now I rea-
lize that world peace comes from peace in my neighborhood,
and in my town” (SeungJun). “I think I’ve changed a little. I’m
more interested in the problems of differen t co un t r ies in th e wo rl d.
I’m reading the news more, and am particularly interested in the
World section of newspapers” (SoYeon). “I didn’t think that
environmental proble ms had anything to do with peace, but now
I realize that they’re related, and that I can do something about
it” (SeaJin). “If someone sees the art projects that we created, I
think they’ll realize how beautiful and important peace really
Through a variety of artistic activities, students were able to
express issues in a more creative way. Using their own self-di-
rected process and series of artistic projects, students unearthed
ne w connec tions and idea s that e xcited and inspire d them. Greene
(2001) similarly notes, “To engage with works of art is to go in
search of fresh connections, unsuspected meanings, to engage in
ac t s of conti nuin g disc overy ” (p. 42). Part icularly whe n they were
engaged in a group pr oject, students were also abl e to experience
the social bond s that are integral to being a part of a group, com-
munity, and world.
This project not only advanced students’ thinking and under-
standing, but also helped foster a sense of purpose and agency
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Y. I. K. SONG
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 83
around building peace and how they could contribute. Students
no longer conceptualized peace as a highly external concept with
no immediate relation to their lives, but rather had a sense of
how they could help advance peace in more direct ways. This
shift in thinking also led to small, but demonstrable shifts in
behavior that are likely to endure with their shifted peace para-
digm. Ishaq (2006) describes the importance of this change and
notes, “For a global culture of peace to be built, the next gen-
eration must be imbued with new systems of thinking and feel-
ing. Such approaches are the domain of cognitive science, trans-
lated through practice into perceptual and behavioral change”
After the comp leti on of all ac tivi ties , the proj ects wer e up load ed
to a password-pr otected online blog. On this blog, students of si-
milar age s from other c ountries also shared their “peace projects”.
This became a place where students could learn about what the
local paper materials of other countries were and what other
cultures were like. Students were able to further engage with the
meaning and definitions of peace by viewing proj ects from other
students who approached this with different backgrounds, val-
ue s, and e xperie nces. Ultima tely, a si mila r platfor m could be used
for students of different backgrounds and in different countries
to learn about a variety of issues that may affect one another in
This projec t debuted in June 2011 at Daeja Elementary School
in Gwangju, South Korea and at the Maranyundo Girls’ School
in Nyamata, Rwanda. The project in Korea was guided by Pro-
fessor Young Imm Kang Song (author) of the Graduate School
of Education at Lesley University, and the project in Rwanda
was guided by Professor Nathan Felde of the Art Institute of
Boston at Lesley University. Although both projects involved
handmade papermaking as a common thread, the rest of the
activities were designed to fit the particular interests and needs
of each of the schools and countries. Since then, this “Making a
PEACE of Paper” project has begun to develop into a larger
project in which sixth- and seventh-grade students from differ-
ent countries participate in creating handmade paper as a me-
dium of discussing the topic of peace. In addition to the “shared
space” that is created through the website, a physical exchange
of the sheets of handmade paper was conducted between the Daeja
El ementary School and Maranyundo Girls’ School. Such physic-
cal exchanges are planned with other countries as well in order
to create hope for the world by creating a “PEACE of paper”.
By adopting this project, teachers and community peace edu-
cators might explore what a peaceful future means to students
and how this may be attained. It is hoped that this project will
motivate teachers and community educators to create a new vi-
sion of teaching t his topic. This project provides an engaging fra-
mework for students to share ideas, discover meaning, and ad-
vance their own understanding of peace through collaboration,
dialogue, and creation of art works that represent their ideas. It
is flexible and adaptable to vari ous contexts, age g roups, and set-
tings but provides a model for authentic student voice in learn-
ing, extensive higher-level thinking, and a platform for collec-
tively reaching new insights. Greene (2001) describes the exci-
ting new perspective that can be gained through such work with
ot her s, “Being ot hers, of fering u s new vanta ge poi nts, it ha s made
us hear as never before; it has enabled us to see” (p. 35). The goal
of this project is to provide a compelling way to allow students
to “see” peace in a transformed way that will ultimately help
lead us to a more peaceful society.
The author would like to thank the sixth graders of classroom
6-1 of Daeja Elementary School in Gwangju, South Korea, and
their classroom teacher Kim KyungSu for their participation in
this project and for their enthusiasm and passion that inspired
this paper. The author also thanks the many people all over the
world who have supported this project in various ways.
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