They’re promoting playground peace

Peacemakers program helps decrease conflicts, encourages leadership in older students

Taylor Vincent walks carefully between the lines of excited, energetic kindergartners coming in from recess.From time to time, she’ll gently remind the young students to stay in line and keep their voices down.

Vincent, a Hathaway Elementary fifth-grader, is a member of the Peacemakers program, designed to help decrease playground conflicts among younger students and promote positive behavior.

“It’s also an opportunity for our older students to pay it forward,” commented Molly Hayes, school social worker. “They’re learning to problem solve and in turn, help the younger kids resolve their own conflicts.”

According to Vincent, the biggest issues tend to be conflicts over wall ball rules, soccer, tag, and pushing and shoving in line.

It is her second year as a Peacemaker.

“I like helping kids with their problems,” she said. “If they are sad, I want to see them happy.”

Jaden Carstens, a fifth-grader, is a first-year participant in the program.

“I really want to make the playground a better place so that the little kids don’t end up like the fifth-graders are now,” he said. “Many are loud, noisy and talk in line.”

Fourth- and fifth-grade students are eligible to participate in the program, with a volunteer commitment of twice a week.

They must have good grades, regular school attendance and go through an interview process. Students also attend a half-day of training, which includes problem solving techniques and conflict resolution.

“I really enjoy seeing their growth,” commented Hayes. “The little kids really watch them and it helps promote a positive atmosphere here.

She continued, “It also gives the kids value and meaning in areas other than academics.”

Jacob Gregersen, a fourth-grader, enjoys helping the younger students make good choices.“I want to help keep them be safe,” he said.

Currently, the program has 22 volunteers.

“It’s been a great resource,” Hayes said. “The kids really look forward to it.”