I’m just back from an epic adventure in Norway, and although I sailed by fjords, spotted the northern lights, and even rode in a dog sled, there is one experience that’s really been sticking with me. One of my favorite spots I visited wasn’t about adventure travel, and it’s one that everyone can easily imagine themselves visiting: the Nobel Peace Center.
“At what age do children stop imagining they can win a prize for peace?” This was the question posed to me by a new friend in Oslo who has worked with the center. Winning a prize for peace, she explained, is something that children can easily imagine themselves doing. You don’t need to be the fastest runner, or get the best grade on a math test, or win the World Cup, or go to an ivy league school.
Anyone can be a force for peace – children know this in their hearts, but at some point, it slips away.
One of the goals at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, is to reinforce the idea that we can all make the world a better place, and they’ve done an extraordinary job including children in their often emotional exhibits. Kids follow a “trail” highlighted by two creatures, Fred and Toca Loca, a giraffe and a toucan (my Norwegian would have to be better to explain why they were chosen, so just embrace it for now).
Imagine my surprise to find a whole children’s corner devoted to Al Gore! A large wood box told a story about Gore’s devotion to saving the planet. Then two multiple choice questions are posed using wood dials; answer both correctly, pull a lever, and out pops a secret box with Al Gore trading cards (way to go Al!), that kids get to keep and collect.
I’m focused on Gore here, but other “green” Peace Prize laureates have spaces devoted to them as well, and the Dalai Lama has his own room, which features headphones for kids to listen to his inspiring messages.
Although you might not be able to visit the center in person, you can still talk to your kids about the next topic Fred and Toca Loca will be introducing later this month: Children’s voices must be heard! Since Malala Yousefzai won the prize at age 16 two years ago, it’s easier for children to believe that their opinion matters and their voices need to be heard. The center asks kids to practice ways to express their own opinion. Ask your kids what they would do to highlight an issue that effects them that they’d like to change.
If you do make it to Oslo (which is easier to reach than you think with roundtrip, nonstop fares on Norwegian Airlines for less than $400 per person!), don’t miss the permanent exhibits here. Walk into the main exhibit hall and you’re met by darkness that gives way to hundreds of glowing lights that form a runway to individual screens with photos of every Peace Prize winner. Reach out to touch the image and their accomplishments flash in front of you, ending with a famous quote. Meditative music plays, occasionally interrupted by the voice of acceptance speeches. When I was there I heard both Malala and Jimmy Carter.
The kids trail only takes 30 minutes to complete (it’s free for kids 16 and under, and in English and Norwegian), but the effects of time spent here may last a lifetime; hopefully answering the question of “what age do children stop imagining they can win a prize for peace,” with “never,” or even “after they win one.”