Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Teaching Social Responsibility

MORNINGSIDE CENTER for Teaching Social Responsibility works in public schools and communities to help teachers, students, and parents build skills, knowledge and community. Through our programs, people learn to solve conflicts nonviolently, challenge bias, communicate better, and work together to build a more just and peaceful society.

Conflict Resolution & Diversity Programs

Morningside Center works extensively in schools helping educators implement programs that build community and develop students' social and emotional skills.

See our list of offerings (in PDF format) for:

Our programs include:

The 4Rs Program (Reading, Writing, Respect & Resolution)

Morningside Center's 4Rs Program integrates conflict resolution into the language arts curriculum for pre-K through middle school.

Through the program, we train and support teachers in implementing the 4Rs curriculum, which uses high-quality children's literature as a springboard for helping students gain skills and understanding in the areas of community-building, handling anger, listening, assertiveness, cooperation, negotiation, mediation, celebrating differences, and countering bias.

The thrust of the 4Rs is creating a caring classroom community. Each grade has its own teaching guide with seven units:

  • Building community
  • Dealing with feelings
  • Becoming a better listener
  • Learning to be assertive
  • Dealing well with conflict
  • Celebrating diversity & countering prejudice
  • Making a difference

4Rs for Middle School has additional units on countering teasing, bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

Each unit is based on a children's book, carefully chosen for its high literary quality and relevance to the theme. (For a list of the books, please click here.) All of the units have two parts. Book Talk suggests activities - discussion, writing, and roleplay - for deepening students' understanding of the book and connecting it to their lives. Applied Learning consists of conflict resolution lessons related to the theme.

By highlighting universal themes of conflict, feelings, relationships, and community, the 4Rs curriculum adds meaning and depth to literacy instruction. Since reading and writing are excellent tools for exploring conflict, feelings, and problem-solving, the 4Rs approach enriches conflict resolution instruction as well.

The 4Rs includes a parent component, Parent-Child Connections, which consists of activities children do with their parents at home. Each activity sheet includes a summary of the book used in the unit, a related activity for the parent (or other adult) and the child to do together, and suggestions for further activities related to the book and the theme.

Said one 4Rs teacher: "I notice that with time, my students are showing each other that they care. They are starting to be less competitive and more considerate. That's a lot of change in just a few months. And it is measurable."

For more information on The 4Rs, please contact Tom Roderick, Executive Director of Morningside Center, at

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Resolving Conflict Creatively Program

Every school day, in public schools throughout New York City, young people are learning better ways to deal with conflict and cultural differences through Morningside Center's Resolving Conflict Creatively Program. The program was co-founded by Morningside Center (then ESR Metro) and the New York City Board of Education in 1985.

The program uses engaging, interactive techniques to teach children skills in:

  • communication
  • anger management
  • negotiation
  • mediation
  • cooperation
  • intercultural understanding
  • standing up to bias

A two-year study of the program by Columbia University researchers found that children receiving substantial instruction in the program from their classroom teachers developed more positively than their peers: They saw their social world in a less hostile way, saw violence as an unacceptable option, and chose nonviolent ways to resolve conflict. They also scored higher on standardized tests in reading and math.

The components of Resolving Conflict Creatively include:

  • 3-5 day introductory training course to prepare teachers to implement the curriculum
  • regular classroom instruction based on a K-12 curriculum
  • classroom coaching of teachers by expert consultants
  • peer mediation programs
  • training for school administrators and parents

Each year, Resolving Conflict Creatively provides professional development for about 1,000 teachers, classroom instruction in conflict resolution and intercultural understanding for over 11,000 children; peer mediation and youth leadership programs in some 50 elementary schools and high schools; and "Peace in the Family" parent training in a range of participating schools.

For more information, please contact Lillian Castro, Morningside's Director of Administration, at

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Early Childhood Adventures in Peacemaking

Research shows that early childhood is a critical time for teaching children social and emotional skills. Through our Early Childhood Adventures in Peacemaking Program, Morningside Center helps pre-school educators teach these important life skills to young children.

Through the program and its special curriculum, early childhood center staff and parents use puppet plays, songs, story-telling, and other age-appropriate activities to teach children how to cooperate with each other better, resolve conflicts peaceably, and handle their anger. Children learn to see things through other people's eyes, be more caring, and steer away from name-calling and prejudice.

Morningside Center has a long track record of teaching young people and adults these skills. For the past 15 years, we have collaborated with the New York City Department of Education to develop and run one of the nation's most respected conflict resolution programs, the Resolving Conflict Creatively Program, in NYC public schools (grades K-12).

Early Childhood Adventures in Peacemaking has these components:

  • Introductory training. Preschool teachers receive training to introduce them to Early Childhood Adventures in Peacemaking, our activity guide for early childhood teachers, which has received the Judges Award from the Association of Educational Publishers. Training is tailored to the issues staff are facing in their classrooms.
  • Site-based professional development. A staff developer from makes regular visits to the preschool to coach teachers in implementing the curriculum in their classrooms. Coaching includes co-planning activities, observation, conferencing with staff, and demonstration lessons. Teachers begin implementing the program on a daily basis.
  • Parent training. Since parents play such a crucial role in the life of a young child, the effectiveness of early childhood education depends on parents reinforcing the school's efforts. We offer parents site-based training and support in teaching their youngsters social and emotional skills.

For more information about Morningside Center's Early Childhood Adventures in Peacemaking Program, please contact: Lillian Castro, Morningside Center, 475 Riverside Drive, Suite 550; New York, NY 10115; tel: 212-870-3318 x33; fax: 212-870-2464; email:

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PAZ Out-of-School-Time Program @ P.S. 24

The PAZ After-School Program (Peace from A to Z) provides instruction in conflict resolution, cooperative games and sports, and homework help for some 240 children at Brooklyn's P.S. 24. The program operates from 3 to 6 pm every school day as well as over the summer and during school holidays. PAZ was launched in September 1999 by Morningside Center and P.S. 24 with funding from The After-School Corporation.

PAZ is the product of a shared commitment by P.S. 24 and Morningside Centerto educating youngsters' hearts as well as their minds. In addition to providing academic support and physical education instruction, PAZ helps children learn to:

  • communicate better
  • identify and express feelings
  • manage anger
  • handle conflicts nonviolently
  • cooperate with peers
  • respect differences
  • stand up to bias

In addition to our ongoing work with PAZ, Morningside Center also provides training and support to other after-school programs around New York City that want to integrate conflict resolution into their work with youngsters.

For more information on PAZ, please contact Morningside's PAZ Coordinator Yadira Garcia at

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© Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility
475 Riverside Drive, Suite 550
New York, New York 10115
212.870.3318 | fax: 212.870.2464