Gandhi-King Teacher Institute targets high school English, social studies teachers

Posted on
Training offers tips for integrating nonviolence into teaching curriculum

KINGSTON, R.I. – July 13, 2010 – Just hours before his assassination on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. talked with his friend Bernard Lafayette about the importance of nonviolence education.

“Martin Luther King told me that nonviolence teaching was going to become nationalized,” Lafayette said. “If young people can understand the concepts of nonviolence, they can help prevent violence in their lives. The teaching of nonviolence is vital in education.”

King’s vision stayed with Lafayette and played a key role in the development of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies at the University of Rhode Island. Beginning Monday, July 19, the center will host the first Gandhi-King Teacher Institute. The three-day teacher-training program – which is focused on infusing nonviolence education into the curriculum – offers professional development credit approved by the Rhode Island Department of Education.

A collaborative effort between URI and the Raise Your Voice Project, the institute is targeting high school English and social studies teachers throughout the state. The goal is to get twelve teams of two teachers from the same schools — one English teacher and one social studies teacher — to attend the camp together.

Funded through a grant from and the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, the training will show how teachers can use humanities-based instructional strategies to develop and share the curriculum. Paul Bueno de Mesquita, URI professor of psychology and director of the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies, along with School of Education professors Diane Kern and Kathryn Johnson, form the URI contingent of workshop facilitators for the institute.

One of the key approaches in the training is to use poetry and drama to deliver the message of nonviolence in the classroom. “Many students have trouble reading the vast amounts of text that is presented to them,” said Johnson. “By incorporating the humanities with the social sciences, teachers can develop different strategies to bring their lessons alive.”

Consultants Dorothy Bocian and Risa Gilpin from Cultural Connections reached out to URI for the project. Cultural Connections had developed the successful Raise Your Voice, a program that focused on Kingian nonviolence theories by guiding urban school students to write poetry.

“We want to introduce the idea of humanities and history working together,” Bocian said. “Through this, we can demonstrate what has been done in the past to help lead to peaceable solutions in times of conflict. We can help students learn how to get along.”

There is no cost to attend the institute, which will be held in the Multicultural Center Forum at 74 Lower College Road on URI’s Kingston campus. A $100 stipend will be offered to teachers who train and implement practices in their classroom.

Teachers interested in registering for or learning more about the institute can call 401.874.2875, or email