Photo/Cyneatha Millsaps

Children at Community Mennonite Early Learning Center practice yoga poses that help them calm down and focus. 

Children at Community Mennonite Early Learning Center (CMELC) in Markham, Ill., are learning new ways to deal with conflict and create peace thanks to a partnership between Community Mennonite Church and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Great Lakes.

According to Pastor Cyneatha Millsaps, members of the congregation decided that they wanted to get more involved and connected in the child care center. “One of the things we thought about was whether I, as a pastor, could give one day out of my week to spend at the daycare,” said Millsaps. A grant from MCC last summer, along with several other grants, made that a reality.

Millsaps created a peace, justice and conflict resolution initiative that involved not only one day a week with the children, but also workshops with staff and quarterly workshops with the children’s parents.

One of the programs with the children focused on creating peace within your own space. This included Millsaps teaching the children different yoga moves – such as tree or cobra. “The first week the kids learned five different moves,” said Millsaps. “It was amazing to me how quickly they picked up on it. If the kids are being rowdy I’ll tell them, ‘Show me cobra again,’ to redirect them.”

Once the kids learned the moves, the next step was teaching the parents how to utilize the techniques at home. “We help parents understand ways in which they can calm and slow down their kids by using the various yoga moves,” said Millsaps. “They can use it at home to restore balance.”

Millsaps and the CMELC staff also have incorporated books and curriculum recommended by The Lion and Lamb Peace Arts Center in Bluffton, Ohio, for additional peace and justice learning activities with the children.

They have been pleased with the response, especially from the children, and encourage other churches to get more involved with their child care and preschool programs. “Families are able to see us as more than a daycare,” Millsaps said.

Editor’s note: Millsaps is moving into a new role as MCC Great Lakes program director on February 20, but CMELC continues to incorporate peace and justice priorities into their curriculum.

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