Summer Institutes for K-12 Educators

Compassion, peace and harmony are universally recognized as defining aspects of good life. And yet each day we see increasing violence, discord and enmity around the world. Most disturbing is the growing trend of violence in our schools, which impairs the learning environment and negatively affects student motivation and performance. Hence there is an urgent need to provide in our K-12 education a proper understanding of nonviolence both as a core human virtue and as an effective as well as more enduring way of resolving conflicts.

The Ahimsa Center at Cal Poly Pomona offers opportunities to K-12 Educators to participate in a two-week summer institute focused on education about nonviolence and its exemplars leading nonviolent social change.

These institutes have a two-fold purpose: (1) Professional development and career advancement of K-12 educators and administrators through in-depth interdisciplinary understanding of institute theme and topics. (2) Curricular innovation through standards-based, interdisciplinary lesson plans for the enrichment of student knowledge and understanding of nonviolence and social change.

Under the direction of Professor Tara Sethia five institutes have been offered every other Summer since 2005. In average, thirty applicants were accepted in an open competition to participate in each of these institutes. Participants immersed themselves in the study of the subject matter working with the director and other experts and scholars.

For sampling of participant experience from these institutes, click here.

For curriculum developed by teachers at these institutes, click here.


Gandhi, Sustainability and Happiness: July 29-August 12, 2013

The 2013 Summer Institute for K-12 teachers—the fifth one in a series on education about nonviolence— focused on Mohandas K. Gandhi, Sustainability, and Happiness. Gandhi’s enduring significance is anchored in his uncompromising commitment to ahimsa or nonviolence—the experience of oneness with others and nature--as the foundation for his vision of humanity, and for the well-being and happiness of all. Sustainability refers to the ability to sustain life, while maintaining an ecological balance that is rooted in caring for nature and caring for the needs of generations to come. Happiness endures in a solidly grounded sense of well-being, of flourishing, and of having found meaning and purpose in life. This two-week residential institute examined the relevance of Gandhi’s thought for the current discourses on sustainability and happiness.

This institute topics included:

  • Challenges to sustainability and happiness
  • Key concepts of Gandhi’s thought
  • Nonviolence and ecological world view
  • Swaraj (self-discipline) as an imperative for sustainable way of life
  • Sustainable development and sustainable consumption
  • Nonviolence and Sustainable Happiness
  • Challenges associated with Gandhian solutions

Journeys of Nonviolence: Gandhi and Chavez: July 25-August 8, 2011

The 2011 Summer Institute for K-12 teachers, the fourth in a series on Education about Nonviolence, focused on two major proponents of nonviolent action for social change: Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) and Cesar Chavez, (1927-1993). Both of them dedicated their lives to combat racism, oppression, injustice, violence, and poverty. In their shared worldview, moral and spiritual growth of human civilization was as important as its material advancement. Both were highly influential in shaping the politics of the day, without ever holding a public office. They led by example, with nonviolence as the core principle guiding their actions. However, their journeys were quite different in terms of the scope, scale, and impact of their movements. This institute was devoted to an in-depth study of their journeys in the pursuit of a more just, peaceful, and sustainable social order.

Institute topics included

  • Gandhi and Chavez in their respective socio-political contexts.
  • Their response to various social and political challenges.
  • Their experienes with immigrant communities: Gandhi in South Africa and Chavez in the United States
  • Their methods for conflict resolution and social change.
  • Their views on poverty and sustainable development.
  • Their legacy and impact.

Journeys of Nonviolence: Gandhi and King: July 12-25, 2009

Ahimsa Center ’s 2009 Summer Institute for K-12 teachers—the third one in a series on Education about Nonviolence— focused on Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68), the pioneers of nonviolent action for social transformation. Both Gandhi and King were ordinary human beings who rose to extra-ordinary heights in serving humanity. Both were interested in the moral and spiritual growth of human civilization than simply its material advancement. Although both were active in the politics of the day, neither held a government office. Both dedicated their lives to combat racism, oppression, injustice, violence, war and poverty. Both adopted nonviolence as a principle guiding their actions, and both led by example. They sacrificed their lives for what they believed in. Their journeys, however, were unique and distinctive.

This two-week residential institute focused on the following topics:

  • Gandhi and King as dynamic thinkers and life-long learners.
  • Their private and public lives.
  • Their courage in addressing racism, injustice, violence and war.
  • Their creativity in conflict resolution and devising nonviolent methods for social change.
  • Gandhi and King as global figures; their legacy and impact.
  • Gandhi and King: Critical Assessment

Gandhi, Nonviolence and the 21st Century Curriculum: July 15-28, 2007

Ahimsa Center ’s 2007 Summer Institute for K-12 teachers—the second one in a series on Education about Nonviolence—focused on Mohandas K. Gandhi and the relevance of his life and legacy in the 21 st century school curricula. Gandhi’s enduring significance is anchored in his unwavering commitment to ahimsa or nonviolence as the foundation for his vision of humanity and as a powerful force to question, reform and transform the unjust establishments of authority. Gandhi called this force satyagraha—an active pursuit of truth and justice through love and nonviolence and used it, among other things, for mobilizing the largest nonviolent mass movement known in history. The major focus of this institue, however, will be on Gandhi's philosophy of education and his work in shaping educational institutions in India.

This institute topics included:

  • Gandhi's ethics and politics of education
  • Gandhi the UNESCO's call for education about nonviolence in the context, "the international decade of nonviolence and peace."
  • Gandhi, schools and Gujarat Vidyapith (a university founded by Gandh)
  • Gandhi on education: Nai Taleem
  • Gandhi's Critics

Nonviolence and Social Change: July 18-30, 2005

This summer institute —the first one in a series on Education about Nonviolence— focused on a systematic exploration of nonviolence and social change in world history.

Designed for K-12 educators and administrators--who are keen to take a leadership role in addressing growing violence in schools through education about nonviolence and social change-- this institute relied on multidisciplinary approaches to help

  • deepen understanding about the historic role and power of nonviolence and its role in social transformation and for resolving conflicts in diverse social settings.
  • facilitate the development, implementation and dissemination of standards-based interdisciplinary curriculum on nonviolence and social change.
  • examine critically the various applications of nonviolent strategies for positively enhancing the learning environment for students and expose them to the power of nonviolent movements in history.