PEACE. The word evokes multi-faceted definitions. But for school children in one small Minnesota community, peace is defined in a garden, an International Peace Garden.
For nine years now, students, staff and volunteers at Nerstrand Elementary School have created an on-site evolving garden that reflects the vision of peace among nations.
“It (the garden) reminds us that the journey toward peace is never ending and that everyone is important,” according to information on the school’s website, www.nerstrand.charter.k12.mn.us.
For the first time recently, I visited the garden which shows these kindergartners through fifth graders, and others, that this world is much bigger than tiny Nerstrand, a town of about 230 in Rice County. In developing the garden, students research the featured countries, learning about customs, food, culture, issues and more. They have also contributed to world charities, like collecting food and medical supplies and sewing quilts for the people of Guatemala.
As I walked through the International Peace Garden, I considered just how much attitudes and situations have changed since I attended Vesta Elementary School in the 1960s. Back then, we feared a Russian attack. Words like “missiles,” “the Cold War,” “Sputnik” and “fall-out shelters” defined the world.
While issues of war and of peace remain, and always will as long as we share this world, I am heartened by efforts like the International Peace Garden in Nerstrand. Understanding of other languages, other nations, other cultures can only result in better relationships among people in this diverse world of ours.
As a sign at the Nerstrand school reads in part: “We share all the stars and one hope for peace. The people of this world are all related. We share our love of life, our sense of place, our appreciation of beauty…”
© Copyright 2009 Audrey Kletscher Helbling