The Peace Institute was created in 1993 by Dr. Ronald Klemp, a teacher and staff developer, with extensive experience working with diverse student populations. The original Institute was comprised of a team of teachers and a group of 160 students at the Northridge Middle School in Northridge, California. The Peace Institute has since expanded, and now has programs in 12 schools in Los Angeles and one school in Mississippi. Recognizing that many conflicts exist in the lives of middle schoolers, the Peace Institute seeks to create a positive sphere of influence and to convey a message of peace by fostering a sense of belonging among students. It also enhances an understanding of diversity and explores issues related to acts of violence. The program uses curriculum that integrates the disciplines of English, Social Studies, Science and Math. Through this approach, teachers can integrate relevant instructional programming while responding to issues and conflicts that affect their students and the wider community.
Each Peace Institute is composed of a team of English, English as a Second Language, Social Studies, Science and Math teachers, and a team of students from diverse backgrounds. The teachers guide the students in dealing with social issues, including racism, violence, and human rights. They also facilitate an understanding of the requisite conditions for peace in the world, including racial harmony and nonviolent conflict resolution. Through these projects and other activities, the students examine the literature, historical perspectives, and statistical data related to the various social. The various Peace Institutes share insights and resources by working together through travel projects and writing exchanges. Each school publishes a monthly newsletter about its activities and shares it with the other schools. The Peace Institute maintains that one answer to solving the world's problems is communication based on an appreciation of our diversity. The Institute strives to teach young people that they comprise the world and are responsible for its care. One student participants wrote, "The Peace Institute us the opportunity to express ourselves and get a better understanding of others. We are exposed to different cultures and it brings us closer together. Although, we are different, we have all the same problems in life such as crime." As part of the Peace Institute, students study the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. This year, students at the different Institutes exchanged letters conveying their ideas about civil rights and what they learned about the issues involved in the movement. Other inter-Institute projects include a play written by two institutes against gang violence (which will soon be shared with and performed by other Institutes). Through another project, students from Brinkley High School, a predominantly white suburban school, visited Pearl High School, a predominantly black urban school, to bring support, condolences, and a message of peace after a shooting at Pearl.
The more than 1,000 students who have participated in the Middle School Institute for the Study of World Peace have developed an appreciation for all people and an understanding of their role as agents of peace. They are able to evaluate situations related to violence, seek a nonviolent alternative to the conflicts they face in their lives, and become advocates for peace in their families, communities, and workplaces. The Institutes have shared their message through presentations to schools, community groups, and boards of education. New institutes are in the works in Michigan, South Carolina, and other locations on the East Coast. One of the Peace Institute's major achievements is the development of town hall meetings on racism, which now take place in the schools and communities where the Institutes are based. As part of this project's students explore the issues surrounding race and write essays about how to solve the problem of racism.