CARLSTADT, N.J. — Sixth grade Carlstadt Public School teacher Esther Fletcher is trying to foster an environment of peace and unity, one class at a time.
The math teacher calls it her "Peace by Piece" project.
It all started over Christmas break when Fletcher said she read one too many negative news headlines.
"I thought there was so much anger in the world and that we could all use a little love," Fletcher told Daily Voice.
That got her thinking about the peace movement of the 1960s and '70s.
"One of the things that came out of the movement was a progression towards accepting each other, women's rights, gay rights, tolerance, and people caring for each other more," said Fletcher, who is also the bullying coordinator for the school.
From there, Fletcher started considering all the pieces it takes to make peace. She came up with four: sympathy, empathy, realize, and mobilize.
"The idea being that if we can sympathize with how other people feel and empathize, we can realize there is a need for peace, and mobilize to take action," Fletcher said.
She illustrated all of her pieces of peace in, fittingly, a peace sign, and took her idea to the administration to see how they could incorporate it into the curriculum.
"They loved the idea," Fletcher said. "Everybody has really grabbed on."
Now, Kindergarteners are making peace signs in art class and second graders are reading peace songs and underlining the verbs and nouns.
Middle school students are fostering empathy in social studies class by talking about slavery from the perspective of slaves.
"I hope that this will help students across the entire school think more about peace and make them less likely to jump to anger," Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the school will continue to incorporate her "Peace by Piece" project into the curriculum for the rest of the year. She hopes it can eventually be brought to the entire district.
"We are just doing our part to turn discourse in harmony," she said.