Social participation is essential to the continued life and wellbeing of any democracy. The deepest purpose of schools is to foster responsible and active citizens, and to provide opportunities and encouragement for learning the skills this requires.

In line with the national curriculum for middle school (junior high) and high school students, this package includes many exercises for developing the skills needed for active and effective democratic participation. Learning to deal with and prevent conflicts and promote peace are essential parts of democratic life, at all levels – in one’s own school and community, nationally, and internationally. These exercises help students to think critically about all the sides of any debate or conflict. In doing so students become better able to act fairly and justly.

The exercises are downloadable as PDF files.

Identifying basic human needs and concerns

This role play helps students understand and identify the basic elements of human life that are at the root of most conflicts.

Building on our strengths

This exercise helps in recognizing our own habitual ways of thinking about conflicts. In the process students improve their skills in solving conflicts.

Just listen!

In solving conflicts everyone needs to be heard. For that to be possible, others must be able to listen. This is not always as easy as you might think. With practice, every person can learn to become a better listener.


A short exercise that highlights the very common tendency to treat other people as opponents rather than as partners in dialogue.

Conflict-solving with a mediator

In this role play, one student acts as a mediator and the whole class consider ways of tackling clashes of interests through discussion.

How do you feel when people around you fight?

This short exercise gets students to critically discuss their own habitual attitudes towards arguments that go on around them.

To knot or not to knot

This is a simple but effective exercise that highlights how easily conflicts can arise in everyday situations.

Push or pull

A simple exercise to show that there are always at least two ways of getting others to behave as we’d like them to behave.

Pushing pairs

This is a simple but effective exercise that helps students realize how working together can easily lead to conflicts.

Quick brainstorming exercises

These short exercises help students to come up with thoughts related to peacemaking.

The importance of empathy

This exercise can be done as either a group discussion or a short essay. The aim is to get students to consider how they would feel in various situations. This gives them an understanding of how important empathy is to peacemaking.

Hidden interests

This exercise demonstrates how harmful it is if conflicting sides have some aim or interest that they keep secret from others.

The orange exercise

Perhaps the most important of all peacemaking skills is creativity. This means looking at problems in new, often surprising ways and coming up with new, often surprising solutions. In peacemaking, creativity also involves keeping a “cool head”, even when all around you seem to be losing theirs. The creative peacemaker takes a critical distance from the conflict, making it easier for him or her to propose solutions that all sides could live with.

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