About Us

GCFP is a nonprofit organization that has a long history of providing comprehensive peace education through:

* Written materials, including a curriculum that served over 13,000 schools world-wide and a newsletter covering current topics.

* Children’s books.

* Music for children and adults.

* Hands on materials and games.

* Classroom sessions where students learn conflict resolution and peacemaking skills.

* Teacher sessions in workshops and trainings, learning additional ways to develop respectful, caring classrooms where students are empowered to work out their conflicts with each other without have solutions imposed.

* Family programs where parents and families learn nonviolent communication skills for making their homes more peaceful.

The Smart Tools For Life Project.

Smart Tools for Life is a project of Growing Communities for Peace, a nonprofit organization.


Our Mission
To empower children and the adults who care for them, to live and interact nonviolently and in harmony with others and the Earth, to create communities more capable of peace.

Impressive Beginnings

In 1982 GCFP offered one of the first peace education immersion programs in the United States, at our Hudson, Wisconsin private PreK and Kindergarten school, called Hudson Children's House. We deemed it important that we not leave peace and nonviolence up to chance, but bring it to life in the classroom with the children and the adults who cared for them. There are few rewards greater than we had, as we witnessed our vision of a school that provided children the skills and tools to co-create a culture of peace and nonviolence become a reality. The children loved peace education, and expressed their desire for it to continue each year. Here are some of their comments:

“I’m a peacemaker writer. I can make the Ninja Turtles do peaceful things instead of violent things because I’m an author. If you want to be a peacemaker just do it.” Tony, age 4

“You mean if I’m holding the talking piece, my older brother needs to listen to me?” inquired Abbie, age 5 “I love learning about peacemaking!”

When Katie went to first grade at another school, her mom relayed this story to me:
“I like my new school just fine, but my brain is different,” said Katie to her mom.
“How is your brain different?” asked her mom.
“Well, when I have a problem with other kids, I know how to work it out. But the other kids haven’t learned that. I think Ms. Rebecca should come to my new school right away and teach them!” Katie, age 6

Our Logo
The Growing Communities for Peace logo depicts an image of the future we desire: the adults provide a safe, respectful environment for the child to blossom; the child carries that legacy on. Both realize their connection to all of nature and value its diversity. The triangle, with the widest part at the top, represents our commitment to grass roots change and process. The circle symbolizes life's unity.

Our Goals
To increase adults' and children's abilities to employ nonviolent living skills at home and in communities.
To enhance adults' and children's abilities to interact compassionately with the world's diverse people.
To enhance adults' and children's awareness of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all life.

To assist children in understanding themselves and their society through the study of great peacemakers.
To assist adults and children in becoming aware of their personal opportunities for restorative justice, participating in community life and inventing new ideas for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence.
To empower teachers to expand and enrich curriculum to include peace education principles and pedagogy, while demonstrating compassion for all their students; recognizing that they must care for the children’s hearts as well as their minds.
To foster children's relationships with extended family.

“We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel! You are unique. In all the world, there is no other child exactly like you. . . And, when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work. . . We must work. . . to make this world worthy of its children.”
Pablo Casals

About the Co-directors

Rebecca A. Janke, M.Ed., is the co-founder and co-director of Growing Communities for Peace, and co-author of Peacemaker's A, B, Cs for Young Children, a Guide for Teaching Conflict Resolution with a Peace Table and The Compassionate Rebel: Energized by Anger, Motivated by Love. She is also a contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories for a Better World and was recently featured in Montessori for a Better World by Aline Wolf, for her work with individualized community service projects for young children.

Serving as a content editor for the children’s music and children’s books written by co-director, Julie Penshorn, and published by www.smarttoolsforlife.com, she delivers, in child-size portions, the tools and skills that comprise her comprehensive understanding of children’s peace education.

She is a former Montessori teacher with years of experience in PreK-6th public and private schools and served as an internationalist columnist for 25 years with the Public School Montessorian. As the founder, former owner and director of a Montessori PreK-3 with an after-school care program, Hudson Children’s House, she infused the entire curricula with peace education principles and activities.

Her continuing commitment to peace education -- its study and practical applications -- has made her a leader in children’s peace education. She has provided trainings and talks in schools, churches, community groups and prisons.

Rebecca is an alternatives-to-violence (AVP) and a restorative justice facilitator. She served a three-year term as the President of the MN Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), an umbrella group of over 70 peace organizations.

Rebecca now serves as Student Teaching University Supervisor at the University of Wisconsin River Falls for students who are pursuing their Master of Education Degree in Montessori Education and teaches the Montessori Overview Course as an adjunct professor.

Julie Penshorn, MBC is the co-founder and co-director of Growing Communities for Peace and co-author of Peacemaker's A, B, Cs for Young Children, a Guide for Teaching Conflict Resolution with a Peace Table and The Compassionate Rebel: Energized by Anger, Motivated by Love in which she coined the term “compassionate rebel” to name those who see a wrong and find themselves energized to speak out and/or act out against it. They often come from a place of anger, because it is such a motivating emotion. When coupled with great compassion, and commitment to a peaceful process, compassionate rebels catalyze creative, innovative solutions that go far beyond just anger management. Rather they embrace anger and make it useful.

Recently, she completed the children’s book, The Barnyard Buddies STOP for Peace,

and is soon to release several more children’s books. She also created the songs and dialogue on the 2017 CD releases I Stop for Peace and Songs for Peace.

Julie performed as the Peacemaker character and brought empowering music and stories on the topics of self-esteem and care of others, conflict resolution, anti-bias and care of the earth to our family and children’s programs. She comes to this role with an extensive background in music, running an efficient, streamlined business, writing and teaching.

Julie has written and recorded songs for over 40 years. She has performed for a variety of groups -- both intergenerational and children only. She plays several instruments, including autoharp, guitar, and banjo.

Rebecca and Julie served as co-facilitators as artist-in-residents in several schools. They were delighted to experience the creativity the children possessed once they had a conflict resolution process under their belts.


Ms. Henderson: “I just can’t get my daughter Jill to go to school today. This other girl has been making her life miserable and she just can’t take it anymore.”
Principal: “Ask her to come and I’ll invite both girls to my office and go through the conflict resolution process we finished learning last week with our artist-in-residents. I think the girls will be able to work this out.”
Amy: “Jill, I wanted to be your friend, but I just didn’t know how. So, I decided to hate you.”
Jill: “Oh, in that case, I think we should have a friendship ceremony. Let’s make something for each other after school and share our gifts on the playground tomorrow.” The two girls went through the year as great friends! Afton-Lakeland Elementary School.

“We think this conflict resolution process should be put on TV so everyone can learn it!”
“This is important. If we can’t get it on TV then I think we should at least teach it to our babysitters!”
Sentiments of children in the teen mentor program we provided at Oakdale Elementary School

Peace Voyage at the Mall of America – Young children submitted drawings of people who they deemed as peacemakers in their life and gathered for a celebration with our Peacemaker Character. They had an opportunity to speak publicly as to how this person influenced them.

“My vet is a peacemaker because he neutered my cat so she doesn’t have too many babies.”
Girl – Age 9

“The dentist is a peacemaker because she fixed my tooth. Peace is a non-toothache!”
Adult parent

“My step-dad is a peacemaker because he invites me to go along when taking the dog for a walk.”
Jaydah – Age 7

Teen Peacemaker Program – Teens were trained over a five-week period in conflict resolution and then visited elementary classroom teaching young children what they learned.

“I wish someone would have taught me conflict resolution skills when I was little, I think my life would have been better.” Jason – 17-year-old teen mentor

“It’s a good thing we are teaching this conflict resolution process to younger children. They really need it!” Kim – 15-year-old teen mentor

What Is a Baba Yaga? – Our peacemaker character appeared as a very ugly scary woman from the woods and through interaction with the audience the children began to develop empathy for her and not judge a person by how they look.

Outreach with Peace Literacy
Growing Communities for Peace Traveling Peace Education Bookstore, traveled monthly to Minnesota state and national professional development conferences bringing the latest publications to support the herculean efforts many of our community service providers do with people when life has fallen apart. Our knowledge of the literature keeps us abreast of the work in a diverse array of specialties.

As a book publisher, we received awards
The Compassionate Rebel: Energized by Anger, Motivated by Love, featured individuals who each found ways to be a peacemaker as a response to very personal, vexing experiences and conditions. We were one of 26 organizations worldwide to receive a Life Bridge Grant and were a finalist for the Nautilus Award at Book Expo America recognizing authors that contribute to positive social change, spiritual growth, conscious living and responsible leadership as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults. Book is available at www.amazon.com.

We also published/edited
The Compassionate Rebel CD - Featuring songs and poetry of Co-Director Julie Penshorn and other compassionate rebels whose stories were told in the book.

Expanding the Circle: Teen Mentor Service Project Adult Facilitator Manual
This book coached teens in teaching the A, B,Cs of peacemaking to young children

As part of a collaborative effort with the University of Minnesota Extension Service Washington County we developed their 4-H Meeting Handbook which took the focus off of Robert’s Rules of Order in favor of a more community-building model.

Quarterly Membership Newsletter – Peacemaker's News: A newsletter for friends of Growing Communities for Peace that brought information, articles, and ideas and stories to members of Growing Communities for Peace. Included “Ask Peacemaker” column, book reviews and a Community Mailbag for children and adults to share their thoughts, questions and poetry.

“On a scale of 1-10 Peacemaker News is a 10 for my personal and professional life.”
Susan Richcreek

“Excellent publication!” Gina Jarvi

“I admire the philosophy and content of your focus on children.” Judy Blackford

“I’m glad you’re still going strong.” Susan Oleanna

“Your newsletter is great! I’m proud to know you!” Madeleine Hart

Edited: University of Minnesota early childhood educator’s guide Roots, Rights, and Responsibilities

Developed Peacemaker Kit: Peacemaker's A, B, Cs for Young Children, a Guide for Teaching Conflict Resolution with a Peace Table, peacemaker puppet, audio tape called We Can Solve It Peacefully, conflict resolution cubes for higher order thinking skills, and conflict resolution wall chart. - Distributed through national outlet catalogs and national conferences.

Rebecca compiled the following Annotated Resource Guides
Earth Education
Stories for Peace
Valuing Differences

Other Facilitation
Milac Reservation School teacher in services and many weeks of classroom coaching
(Head Start Program)
Fredrick, WI – teacher in-services for the elementary school and classroom sessions with Peacemaker character
Several week Teen Mentor Program at an Oakdale elementary school
Several week Artist-in-Residency Conflict Resolution Process in many schools
Perpich Arts Center Compassionate Rebel play

Workshops and/or Keynotes Repeated in Various Locations
Beyond Discipline: Moving from Compliance to Community
Building Community with Staff
Building a Peacemaking Community in the Classroom
Community Peacemaker Training - Not-for-teachers only
Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking & Make it Take it, Peacemaking Tools to Go
Faith Journeys: Unlocking the Power of the Soul
Family Program - I Can See Peace
Family Program - Conflict Resolution That Works

Making Peace Work through Play!
Move Over Bias, We All Belong!
Parents as Effective Mentors/Volunteers
Power, Power -- I Want IT!
Power - Who's Got the Power?
Practical Peacemaking Activities
Removing Obstacles to Peace
Sitting in the Fire
Summer Peace Camp Training
The A, B, C’s of Peacemaking with Young Children
The Compassionate Rebel Response
The Children's Fire Workshop
These Kids Are Driving Me Crazy
Training for Trainers
Walking the Talk = Better Schools

“The handouts you provide are so useful.” Kari Staab

“The overall tone and energy of the workshop is very positive. I wouldn’t change a thing. This is useful in all my everyday practices including sharing what I learn with other staff members.”
Ellen Peterson

“I like the problem-solving process you introduced!” Barb Grams

“A wonderful presentation that helps us look at the needs of children.” Peggy Hanniford

“You should submit a proposal to speak at national workshops. You understand peace education in ways that I’ve not seen before.” Dr. Gay Ward


New/Current Projects:

Our blog focuses on families, grandparents, educators, and community service provides of young children, ages 3-9. These adults are ones who guide and nurture our children over extended periods of time. We are here to assist with:

* leading edge work that unveils the latest research regarding human behavior

* communicating the newest accomplishments in the development of a culture of peace and nonviolence

* illustrating the role children can play in co-creating peace

* highlighting inventions and interventions that reduce the suffering and struggle of people

* providing resources for peace literacy and problem solving

* providing alternatives strategies to bring out the best in each child

* showcasing examples of creative peace in action

* sharing the deepest thoughts; beyond ordinary conversations

Smart Tools for Life publishing company at www.smarttoolsforlife.com. Unique child-centered children’s books and children’s music bring more peace into the world starting with ages 3 to 9! That’s a smart thing to do. Our stories and music bring rhythm and rhyme to life in memorable fashion, imprinting skills that become a habit. The stories are thought-provoking, create “a-ha” moments, and inspire taking actions like the loveable characters they meet. The music carries the skills and concepts deep into the brain where they will forever guide, and thus provide smart tools for life as these children become adults.

Our resource center featuring affiliated products and resources that enhance and extend hands-on learning opportunities for children and enrich the lives of adults. The brain has devoted so much space to the working of our hands, that an infographic would have a one inch tall human with six foot hands on either side. Therefore, we want to bring as much hands-on-learning to educators and parents as we can. Hands-on activities are fun and engaging, movement oriented as much as possible, and bring the power of concentration to new heights.

The Smart Tools For Life Project

Smart Tools for Life is a project of Growing Communities for Peace, a nonprofit organization.