Students at P.S. 212 in Jackson Heights are looking to spread the idea of peace throughout their community.
Danielle Mahoney, a literacy coach at the elementary school located at 34-25 82nd St., has been teaching students about practicing mindfulness and gratitude for the past year.
While attending a weeklong training conference on mindfulness for kids and adolescents in California, Mahoney noticed a “Peace Pole” in a field and thought it would be a good idea to bring the concept back home.
Peace Poles, which have been planted throughout the world, are handcrafted structures that have the message and prayer “May peace prevail on Earth” on each of its four to six sides.
Mahoney decided to work with one of the third-grade classes she instructs, Jennifer Bayer’s 3-317 class, to have two poles erected outside of P.S. 212 and allow the students to share with the community what they have been learning throughout the year.
“Having these Peace Poles is having to share in the community that regardless of the differences, we can live together and share all the wonderful things about our culture and embrace things and live in a peaceful way,” Mahoney said.
The poles, which are 7 feet tall and from the company The Peace Pole Project, each feature the message “May peace prevail on Earth” in English, Urdu, Bengali, Mandarin, Spanish and Arabic. They also include two other messages in English: “May peace be in our communities” and “May peace be in our schools.”
Although the students had a ceremony celebrating the poles on Wednesday, the structures will not actually be permanently planted until next week. They will be located outside the main entrance of the school, one on each side in small gardens.
“Words are very powerful and as a literacy coach this is not so far away from our core work,” Mahoney said. “When you read it, hopefully the next step is to have action with your words and thoughts will be in a positive way.”
During the Wednesday night ceremony, students, who ranged between 8 to 9 years old, also explained to parents and faculty what the Peace Poles are, why they were being planted and what mindfulness is.
“We hope that when people pass they will take a moment to send kind thoughts to all beings on this planet, [and] focus on the good and peaceful parts of life,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney added that she has seen that teaching the practice of mindfulness to students has helped them relax more, often using breathing as a tool to cope with difficult times, and also teaches the children how to pay attention to the present moment.
Some students have even tried teaching their parents how taking the time to relax and breathe will help them move forward in their days, according to Mahoney.
“Mindfulness allows us to take the time to respond to situations,” one student said. “We learn not to react to everything that happens. You notice what happens, respond to it and let it go. Mindfulness will help you do that.”
Mahoney also hopes that more schools will consider planting Peace Poles and she even is looking to find a way to plant a pole in Astoria, a community she has called home all her life.