We Are Different
W hen we opened the Peace & Justice Academy in September 2009, we were in a position to consider everything that makes a school work – from how many hours of sleep the average middle schooler needs to the best classroom wall color, scientifically speaking. We designed the kind of school where we would want to send our own children. In fact, it is the kind of school we wish we had attended. Here’s some of what we think makes us different:
· Our Community
All students are accepted, respected and valued by the staff and all other students. We are a small school, and we work in process groups, tirelessly promoting kindness and tolerance. When children find themselves in a safe environment – an emotionally as well as physically safe environment – they are free to be who they really are, and they blossom.
· Peace & Justice Worldview
The twin themes of peace and justice run through all our classes and activities. Our worldview is based on the example of the life of Jesus, on the work of God in the world, and in the final analysis, on what gives meaning to our lives, individually and collectively.
· Late Start
The school day begins at 9:00 am to reflect scientific studies that indicate teenagers do better with extra sleep in the morning. Research indicates students need 9 1/4 hours each night.
· Extended Day
Homework is started at school. Students are able to stay from 3:30-5:00 pm Monday – Thursday for assistance. Parents can save money on afterschool programs.
· Peace & Justice Labs
Our monthly Peace & Justice Labs are days in the community which allow us to learn about issues experientially, first-hand. For example, we’ll feed the homeless, but we’ll fast until they are fed so that we begin to feel what homelessness is and can think about how to reduce it.
· Community Covenant
We choose to operate a school with a Restorative Discipline Model. Students begin the year by brainstorming the kind of learning environment they desire and composing a covenant with the teachers, staff and other students. Students sign the agreement and take ownership. Throughout the year, disagreements are settled using the Community Covenant, with the goal to return health to the community.
Rooted in the Mennonite tradition of Christian worship, our weekly chapel draws on a wide variety of expressions of worship, and, at times, exposes students to worship from other faith traditions. Students are encouraged to participate in leading worship, if and when they feel comfortable.
· KIVA Microloans
We want students to know they can change the world. We started a microloan program to show students that just a little money can make a big difference. They bring in their own money to fund microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries. We get to know the stories of the borrowers. We also learn about geography, economics, and history. When our loans are repaid, we re-loan the money.
· Physical Education/Aikido
Our physical education program instructs students in a defensive martial art called Aikido. The goal is to protect oneself and one’s attacker, bringing the encounter to a peaceful resolution. Students can graduate with a black belt, and can choose peace from a position of strength rather than fear.