Erin Schmidt, ESchmidt@ExplorerNews.com
Oct. 26, 2005 - Birds took to the sky on cue and more than 600 students posed for aerial photographs. It's no ordinary day at Harelson Elementary School: It's the Sixth Annual Peace Conference and Unity Rally.
The weeklong event is held in conjunction with the YWCA's Week Without Violence and focused on non-violence and making healthy choices for anger and emotions.
Wrapping up the week, students raced to the football field and joined together for an aerial photo shoot. The photograph is a tradition and something the students look forward to each year.
As part of the week of non-violence, a peace conference was held at Harelson Elementary School Oct. 19 and more than 160 students were chosen to attend.
Students in grades third through sixth from 14 schools were selected. Amphitheater Public School students as well as Marana Unified School District and Flowing Wells School District attended.
Activities and presentations were the lessons of the day, facilitated by Canyon Del Oro High School's Link Crew.
James Crowninshield, 7, said he has had fun all week learning about what he can do to be peaceful.
"When you're angry, it takes out your anger," he said.
The "it" is sports, and Oct. 21 was centered on teaching students at Harelson to play sports and be active instead of being angry and violent.
A school assembly focused on replacing violence with different fun activities, something all students can do.
Amphitheater Governing Board President Kent Barrabee was all smiles after he finished with the unity circle.
"It's a marvelous experience," he said, between shaking student's hands and commending teachers on their organization skills.
Barrabee wants the elementary school to be a lesson for other schools around Tucson.
"It's important to let children know how they are expected to behave and to treat each other," he said. "These kids will never forget this experience."
And Ann Jansen, behavioral intervention monitor for Harelson, hopes students take what they learned during the week and continue it all year long.
Jansen has organized the event for the past six years and prides herself on opening up the lines of communication between schools and students.
And the reason students look forward to the event each year is simple, Jansen said.
"Kids are relating to kids," she said.