Peer Mediators Develop Skills at Pathways to Peace

Posted: March 7, 2001 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Fran Rensbarger

If the students on campus tomorrow and Friday look a little younger than usual, it’s because they are. More than 2,800 elementary and high school peer mediators, representing 220 schools from Pennsylvania to North Carolina, have come to walk the Pathways to Peace. The Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (ICAR) and Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) are the lead sponsors of this year’s conference, which offers more than 120 workshops that address a wide range of mediation skills.

ICAR professor Frank Blechman has been coordinating the conference with Robert Harris, ICAR doctoral student and director of conflict resolution services for FCPS.

Pathways to Peace is the ninth annual Northern Virginia regional conference for peer mediators since ICAR organized the first in 1993. Middle and high school students arrive Thursday at the Concert Hall for a greeting and video montage of films sent from participating schools, and then spread throughout campus for workshops. Elementary school students will reprise the schedule on Friday. The conference was student-planned with adult assistance, and workshops were chosen, written, and will be led by middle and high school students. ICAR students and guidance counselors and teachers from the participating schools will be facilitators in workshops.

The peer mediation program began as a partnership between ICAR and FCPS in 1992 as an alternative way to resolve the inevitable conflicts that arise in schools. Mediators learn to help parties in the conflict to identify and clarify issues and needs, problem-solve for solutions, and write mediation agreements.

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