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Painting for Peace 3-5 Curriculum Guide




After months of tension, something appeared on the streets of Ferguson that hadn’t been seen there for a long time … HOPE. This is the true story of the hundreds of artists and volunteers who came out on cold winter days to paint hundreds of works of inspiring art after the unrest that took place in Ferguson. While it was a difficult time for the community, these images show how the community came together to begin the healing process after months of racial unrest. The book has become a much needed tool for adults and children to start the conversation about the many issues of community and racial equity raised by Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and other current events around the country. 

Paperback ISBN 978-0-9892079-9-7

Hardcover ISBN 978-0-9963901-0-1






This teacher’s guide can be used to help guide discussion and activities before, during and after the story. This guide also contains references to aligned Common Core State Standards for both literature and informational text standards.




  • Click this link and watch the YouTube video “Painting for Peace: A Brief Overview of the Whole Project." After you have watched the video, what do you think the story will be about? Is this a true story or a fictional story? CCSS.CCRA.R.2; CCSS.RL.K-2.5.

  • Have a discussion about what a symbol is. What are some examples of symbols we see around us every day (bathroom signs, peace sign, heart, dove, etc.). How do these symbols tell you a message without using words? CCSS.RL.3-5.7

  • Look at the dove on the title page. Remind students that sometimes you get stories through words and sometimes you get stories through pictures. For example, there are four symbols in this painting alone. Can you find them? The words in this story are simple, but the images are powerful. Explain that art can be interpreted in many different ways, and ask students to pay close attention to the pictures in the story and see what images and symbols you can find. CCSS.RL.3-5.7




  • In picture books, the images show the story along with the text. How do the images in this story change across the book? How do they help tell the story? CCSS.RI.3-5.2

  • Notice how the background behind the buildings changes across the first few pages. Why do you think the illustrator portrayed the pictures this way? CCSS.RI.3-5.7

  • On pages 8 and 9, people are getting ready to paint. What do you think they are going to do with the paint? How do they look like they are feeling on these pages? CCSS.RI.3-5.7

  • The same building is pictured on pages 10 and 11. What has changed? How did they make these images? Why do you think they painted the images they did? CCSS.RI.3-5.7

  • Throughout the story, there are many images of the St. Louis Gateway Arch. Why are these images so prevalent in the artwork for this story? CCSS.RI.3-5.2

  • Look at the arch on page 13. What is the artist trying to portray with this image?  Why do you think they painted roots? CCSS.RI.3-5.7

  • What do you notice about the people who are making these paintings? CCSS.RI.3-5.2

  • How do you think the artists knew what to paint? How did they decide what image they wanted to portray? Did they all paint the same way? CCSS.RI.3-5.7

  • Why do you think the author wrote the words she did? How do the images work together with the words to tell the story? (Pages 22-25) CCSS.RI.3-5.1; CCSS.RI.3-5.8

  • On pages 26 and 27 there are many images that show powerful words and famous quotes that were painted. Why do you think the artists chose those words? What do you think their words mean? CCSS.RI.3-5.2

  • The conflict that inspired these paintings was between people and yet many artists portrayed pictures from nature. Why do you think they chose to do this? Are the images realistic or fantastical (made up)? (pages 28-29). CCSS.RI.3-5.3

  • On pages 31 and 37 there are images of a phoenix. Why do you think this image was included? What does a phoenix usually symbolize? How is that applicable in Ferguson? CCSS.RI.3-5.7

  • “Love One another, both in and outside.” What do those words mean? Does using the painted boards change how you read this quote? CCSS.RI.3-5.1




What was happening in Ferguson at this time that caused people to “feel pretty bad”? Why did some people do things that “were meaner than mean?” CCSS.RI.3-5.3; CCSS.RI.4-5.6; CCSS.RI.5.8; CCSS.RI.5.9


For an extension activity select a few articles that were written at the time of the incidents in Ferguson. Some possible articles, to be used at the teacher’s discretion, include:

"The Steep Cost of the Ferguson Riots" (National Review, Thomas Sowell)

"Ferguson Riots: Ruling Sparks Night of Violence" (BBC) 

"A Look at the Destruction after Ferguson Riots" (ABC News)

"Artists Create Beauty out of Ferguson Destruction" (KOMU)

"The real story in Ferguson is about the people who aren't rioting" (Mashable)


Compare and contrast what students read in the articles to the events described in the book. How do the news stories help clarify the information presented in Painting for Peace in Ferguson? CCSS.RI.3-5.3; CCSS.RI.4-5.6; CCSS.RI.5.9



You can find more lesson plans and activity ideas at this link.




The book is a complete product of St. Louis artists and artisans. Designed by Robert O’Neil and Michael Kilfoy, the book was published by Amphorae Publishing Group, printed by Advertisers Printing Company and bound at Jaffe Book Solutions. Find more on the "Painting for Peace in Ferguson" website. Or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Profits from the book benefit youth and recovery programs in the Ferguson area. 




Carol Swartout Klein grew up in Ferguson and was so inspired by witnessing the spirit of hundreds of volunteers coming together to bring hope to a community in shock that she wanted to capture the story and Painting for Peace in Ferguson is the result. A journalist and marketing professional by training, Klein has always wanted to write a children’s book. She saw how healing the actual process of creating the artwork was for all those involved … as the community came together to help others, the artists, business owners and volunteers benefited themselves … and created new connections that she hopes will continue to strengthen in the future.

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