Children and parents celebrate non-violence, tolerance at Peace Pizzazz –

KALAMAZOO, MI — Though rainy weather prompted Peace Pizzazz, a free festival for elementary and middle school students, to be held indoors at Winchell Elementary School Saturday afternoon, the event was still attended by hundreds of parents and their children.

The festival, an annual celebration of what students have learned about conflict resolution throughout the school year, was months in the making and an integral part of a program that teaches peace education, said Jennifer Boyer, music teacher at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School.

“We spend the whole year learning lessons around the golden rule,” Boyer said, adding school children’s choir learned West African songs on percussion instruments to perform for parents.

“We’ve learned about bullying and cultural awareness, which is what we should always be doing,” she added, noting the importance of providing students with an audience to reiterate lessons learned throughout the school year. 

“Any time you can provide something fun and safe to do, it’s going to be good for the children  … and (it’s important) for them to have more positive experiences in the community,” she said. “They’ve practiced and practiced, and now they’re here — in a place where all kinds of people are going to see them.

“It’s fabulous.”

The Peace Pizzazz featured musical performances, art displays, writing, and dance routines, all performed and created by the programs’ students. The event was attended by more than 100 people.

In addition to learning through various art projects, the Peace Pizzazz committee chose three children’s books to help teach concepts of non-violent solutions to conflict, acceptance and tolerance.

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” said Lynn Kinch, a member of the Peace Alliance of Greater Kalamazoo.

“The idea (of the program) is to have children study books related to peace projects, and hopefully, they’re able to (learn) differences in cultural ideas …. and will live to create a more cultural peace,” she said.

Kinch noted the benefits of reaching children at young ages, and said thousands of children have been affected by the Peace Pizzazz’s mission of nonviolence and acceptance over the years.

“Planting the seeds of change,” Kinch said, reading from each of the three books. “How do we deal with our problems, what do you do when somebody pushes you?”

“We’re planting the seeds of change for a better world.”

For parents, the event was a success both for its mission and its performers. 

“What really drew me is how the children are resolving conflict in healthy ways,” said Nancy Glass. “We’re teaching them how to interact with family and within the schools peacefully and with respect.”

“Beyond just the music, it’s teaching responsibility,” said parent Jennifer Clark. “Peace is only good, and it’s in (the program’s) focus. (It asks of the children) what can you do?” she said.

“So often, music and art is neglected in the schools,” added parent Amy Warren. “I’ll say Mrs. Boyer brings that love of art and so much enthusiasm to this amazing event,” she said.

“We love it.”