Maria Montessori was an educator who believed peacemaking and nonviolence should be included in all school curricula. At Raleigh's Poe Montessori Elementary School, the staff, teachers and parents have taken Montessori's message to heart. A week before classes let out for the year, Poe became the first public school in the Triangle to erect a Peace Pole. Lettered with the words, "Let Peace Prevail on Earth," the 7-foot-high pole now stands permanently in a courtyard overlooking Poole Road.
The May 31 dedication of the Peace Pole was the culmination of a school-wide project led by PTA President Stephanie Cuomo. All of the school's 21 classes contributed to the dedication program. Students planted a butterfly garden, complete with wildflowers, at the pole's base. Peace cranes decorated the courtyard's trees as classes sang songs and read quotes about peace. Items placed at the base of the pole included a chunk of the Berlin Wall, a peace quilt, a Peace rose and a book titled Seeds of Peace.
"Maria Montessori would be proud of this celebration of peace," said Poe Principal Moira O'Connor. "This peace pole will be a daily reminder of the importance of peace in our classrooms, school and lives. It will remind us to be kind and caring and always settle our differences in a peaceful way."
To date, more than 100,000 Peace Poles, including some 5,000 in the United States and about 50 in North Carolina, have been planted in 160 countries. Poles have been dedicated by former President Jimmy Carter, Pope John Paul II and Mother Teresa.
Ten-year-old Jonathan Redd told the story of Sadako Sasaki, the Japanese girl who began folding paper cranes for peace before she died of radiation exposure from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. "This is our cry, this is our prayer: peace in the world," Redd said, quoting an inscription at the base of Sasaki's statue erected in Hiroshima Peace Park. Poe students have sent 1,000 paper cranes to Sasaki's memorial.
For more information about Peace Poles, write to Peace Pole Makers, 3534 W. Lanham Road, Maple City, MI 49664 or call (231) 334-4567.