Chapter 3

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9

Happy Endings with Everyone Winning

Our traditional stories have happy endings, sometimes. But even those with happy endings often they have good and bad characters and the resolutions reflect the triumph of good over evil. But why does there need to be winners and losers? Why can’t everyone be a winner?

Read children's stories:   Activity 1   Activity 2   Activity 3   Activity 4

Throughout the world all children are introduced to the folk tales associated with their family’s cultural heritage. Some children are fortunate to experience many different traditions. These tales, especially fairy stories, generally can be quite gruesome involving winners and losers and with only the heroes living happily ever after while the villains suffer the consequences of their so-called evil ways. Often plots are violent, promote fear and support the worst extremes of stereotyping.

When we reach adulthood life presents different scenarios as we are not all beautiful princesses marrying handsome wealthy princes. Happy endings also often elude us. Our judicial systems reflect our community’s need for justice to be served, for people to get what they deserve in the end. Villains are punished in accordance with the crimes they commit, as occurs in the fairy stories’ endings.

Our newspapers, cinema and television screens constantly present the true but harsh realities of life with winners and losers from all parts of the world being vividly portrayed. Many times this realism reinforces our prevailing beliefs that happy endings occur for only the few lucky ones. With a world struggling to deal with the prevailing threat of terrorism the media also continually hints at a daunting and unhappy future unfolding for the coming generations. Fear only generates more fear sustaining the hopelessness cycle that perpetuates unhappy endings. Unfortunately Peace Curriculum, at this time in history, is forced to address the need to help children cope in a world dominated by fear and the threat of terrorism, a world in which happy endings seem impossible. Will this response lead to a peace consciousness ever being developed?

What are happy endings? Does true success rely upon one obtaining wealth, accumulating material possessions and having power over others or even becoming famous? The Dalai Lama if asked would challenge such thinking about the meaning of happiness. What does win-win have to do with happy endings?

Stephen Covey (1990), in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People explored the notion of win-win or no deal and he is among many who in recent decades have been involved in international training programmes that operate with the win-win concept. But by inviting people to apply to all their problem solving, whether within the home, community or workplace, Covey’s proposal implied taking one further step beyond seeking win-win. This courageous step, if taken, required an insistence upon everyone winning and not allowing the need for compromise to overshadow win-win and impose a lesser outcome for any participants. This profoundly tested people’s conflict resolution abilities as there could be no deal unless win-win was achieved. Peace should not be achieved at any price. Win-win implied the creation of happy endings for everyone involved and excluded any peace being achieved at any price thinking. Everyone can be winners, the underpinning principle of win-win, negates any idea that winners can only exist if there are losers.

What is peace?

Peace is and can be many things to many different people. What does it mean to you? For some it means the absence of war. For others it means a quiet restful time or just merely feeling safe. Is peace something you want in your life? Where do you find peace? Does everyone deserve peace? What do you feel when you are at peace? Is world peace possible?
Exploring this definition with children can produce some fascinating responses. Yet is it important at least to begin any peace-building by establishing some basic understandings about what peace might mean.

The following responses were provided by a class of 8 year old boys.

Peace is when:
I lie in bed with my mum and talk about stuff before I go to sleep.
People don’t feel they have to get revenge for what others have done.
Everyone is welcome to have a say and everyone is treated equally.
We stop destroying the environment because it gave us so much.
Everyone can drop their weapons and unite and be peaceful.
You look in a book about war and laugh at how silly it is.
My brother doesn’t wake me up when I’m sleeping.
The peace symbol is known throughout the universe.
I feel happy and comfortable wherever I am.
Everyone is good and happy and can live safe lives.
People can always have hope for a better world.
Everyone is proud of themselves and others.
There is life, beauty and a new beginning.
All bad things are forgiven and forgotten.
There are no such things as bombs.
We have faith in each other.
People are caring and kind.
People don’t argue anymore.
People aren’t greedy.
People help each other.
People have fun.


The first steps with win-win

The peace-building stories and activities presented in this book can assist children develop better understandings in relation to win-win and its association with happy endings. Beginning with an exploration of what happiness or peace means children can deconstruct folk tales and examine different possibilities for endings. For example, the wolf in The Three Little Pigs[1], instead of being cooked in a pot, could fall into a warm soapy bath water and kindly pigs could offer him clean clothes and a hot meal. The troll waiting for the Three Billy Goats Gruff [2] upon the bridge could offer assistance and help the billy goats find their way. There are endless possibilities to explore with imaginative and creative children who will also have fun in the process.

In other words, as children’s awareness of the purpose of the task evolves, initial story plots can be transformed and lead to different endings as Caitlin has done in her retelling. She was even playful with the title. The stories can be very simple in structure and don’t necessarily need to be written down as they can be shared orally amongst the group. Oral retellings can achieve the same outcomes and stimulate even more open discussion. Children can begin the task in small groups, in pairs or write/type their own versions to share with each other.

read Caitlyn's story

Caitlin’s timely introduction of a peaceful potion indicates she intended to not include any violence in her reconstruction and she definitely reveals her understanding of win-win and how to initiate its development by seeking happy endings for everyone.

Integrating peace-building

The question now arises in relation to what part of the curriculum should peace-building stories and activities be placed? In the following example storytelling was integrated into a Society and Environment Unit yet the identified ICTs, Religion and Values Education and Literacy outcomes required for the children were also met. As with all the other examples yet to be presented peace-building storytelling was integrated into every possible area of the curriculum that could comfortably and meaningfully accommodate it.

Activity 1- Context: Studies of Asia year 6: Vietnam

Task: to retell a traditional fairy tale from European traditions and transform it into a Vietnamese tale revealing the knowledge and understandings gained about Vietnam (culture, traditions, food, animals, language, environment and lifestyle) from previous research activities undertaken. The restructuring would affect the setting and characters but the basic fairy tale’s plot needed to be recognisable. The ending had to become a happy one with everyone winning. (This particular group had previously explored the notions of win-win and happy endings.)

The children:


gathered fairy stories, brought them to school


revisited their favourite fairy tales together and shared their thoughts with the group


each chose a fairy story to rewrite and began planning


typed the original fairy story with the original characters and plot


shared their story and discussed with peers possible animal, name and plot changes


edited their own story making recommended changes to complete the task


asked their parents to be included in the editing process if they wanted to be and their peers edited each other stories, made positive suggestions formatted and edited final copies and published work
with their parents shared their favourite rewritten stories from the class

Kelsey chose the Three Billy Goats Gruff to retell as it was on of his favourite fairy tales he remembered from his childhood and he mentioned his concern about the inappropriateness of the violence in the original version he was read as a small child. His first retelling reflected his need to tone down the violence.

read Kelsey's story

Kelsey innately understood the significance of the powerfully transformative moment in his story when the biggest buffalo offered friendship instead of further trickery. He certainly appreciated the statement: what you put out you get back in return. His pattern influenced many of his peers who heard his ending and then similarly applied it to theirs.

Susannah wanted to retell a quite different story and with the assistance of her peers edited her original story and produced the following intriguing version revealing her understanding and ability to work with all the complexities of the task she was set

read Susannah's story

Susannah also appreciated the need to develop her story without violence, death nor revenge dominating the plot. Seeking meaning for the ‘evilness’ Susannah revealed her awareness that life can sometimes be unfair and tough but hopelessness doesn’t need to prevail as a result.

Establishing a realistic understanding of a peace consciousness

Examining the complexities of peace-building language, as discussed previously, can make peace-building with children quite a daunting and time consuming task. Exploring the language used in peace-building storytelling and applying it to real everyday life situations can provide a much simpler second step in developing a peace-building awareness amongst children.

The next activity was used with eleven year olds to assist with a problem of harassment that had arisen within the group. To avoid initially discussing the problem openly with them and embarrassing the students involved the following story starter was presented to the entire group of children at the beginning of the activity.

Questions were asked of them and answers welcomed:

bulletHave any of you ever experienced a situation like this before?
bulletWhat kinds of things do children get teased about at school?
bulletHow does teasing often make children feel?
bulletIs teasing always intended to hurt another child’s feelings?
bulletWhat can we all do about teasing?

The children were asked to not use names of other children and learned to speak generally about similar harassment problems they had personally experienced. This kind of initial discussion and exploration, when managed sensitively, can help establish the necessary awareness levels.

Once the initial discussion had occurred the notion of happy endings with everyone winning was introduced as we had explored in the first fairy tales retelling activity.

Activity 2- Context: RAVE year 6: Relationships

Task: to complete the story starter creating a happy ending with everyone winning. The resolution needs to attend to the harassment and indicate how it stops.

Peace-building Language creating happy endings in which everyone wins…

Peter sat quietly at his desk. The other children in his class had not yet returned from their lunch break. The warm sunny day had enticed them to remain outside playing for as long as they could. Suddenly the silence was broken. As children chatted and chuckled they found their seats but no-one bothered to notice the tears in Peter’s eyes. He buried his face in his book hoping no-one would see his tears and he tried to forget the words Alex, whom he thought was his friend, has said to him a short time earlier. Somehow though, those hurtful words kept echoing in his head.
“I’m not those things Alex called me!” Peter muttered to himself. Alex has chosen to say words to Peter he knew would make him feel sad. The other children had watched the entire incident and some had even joined in and added their own. Everyone seemed to enjoy making Peter feel sad.


The children discussed possible endings to this scenario and then were asked for homework to complete the ending and perhaps invite their parents to read what they had written.

read Rosie's ending

Rosie obviously believed that punishment was appropriate in this situation yet her ending revealed empathy for the harasser and forgiveness breathed some faith in friendship possibly prevailing. Everyone was happy and everyone won in her ending.

read William's ending

William seemed to believe the school may not be of help and that most support will be provided by Peter’s mother who contacted the harasser’s mother. He revealed much sensitivity perhaps indicating he had experienced a similar problem. William was also relying upon personal experience to construct his particular version of win-win.

read Declan's ending

Declan presented a totally different perspective on the issue. Perhaps again he was relying upon his own personal experiences or simply believed that the victim should be tougher or more resilient. Unfortunately, though, he did not present any sense of a happy ending or win-win. Hopelessness seemed to dominate his thinking. Hopefully the other children’s positive responses would impact upon his future thinking.

read Catherine's ending

Catherine presented a realistic view of the situation and was able to perceive the possible different sides to the issue. Forgiveness powerfully dominated her thinking with a sense of toughening up being needed by the victim.

Each child’s reaction provided an interesting and worthwhile discussion focus to follow up this activity when the endings were shared and examined by the class group. The children’s responses revealed a wide range of awareness amongst them but more importantly their own experiences in dealing with similar problems and the success of certain actions they may have previously tried. Further exploration was needed to be done but the story starter provided a valuable stimulus in order to reveal the underlying thinking within the class group and their abilities to comprehend win-win. Most importantly any possible harassment that could be occurring was aired and could be privately dealt with.

This activity explored issues that were pertinent to the children and every individual brought different thoughts and sensitivities to the problem solving, ones that all needed to be respected and accepted as being important and necessary to raise throughout the process.

As issues arise: Winners and Losers

In order to deal with a growing problem amongst the girls in a year 6 class another story starter was presented to the groups involved, but this time the students worked in pairs and the storytelling was integrated into an existing RAVE programme. This is an example of peace-building storytelling being appropriately incorporated when suitable into existing curriculum.

A section of the girls were being deliberately excluded by another group, which was made up the most popular girls. Without seeking the names or details of children involved the story starter, as occurred in the previous activity, provided an impersonal yet specific example to be used to allow any possible issues to safely and comfortably surface during open discussion.

Activity 3- Context: RAVE and Programme Achieve year 6: Peer Pressure

Task: to complete the story starter with a partner creating a happy ending with everyone winning. The resolution needs to attend to the problem, explore the feelings of those involved and indicate how the situation improves and ceases being an issue.

The story begins.........

It seemed the sun had risen far too early on Monday morning. Alice poked her head from under her pillow and peeped at the bright rays shining in through her window.
"Monday!" she moaned then curled herself into a tight ball and remained buried beneath her sheets and warm blankets.
"Alice!" yelled her mother anxiously from the kitchen. "You'll be late again for school if you don't start to get dressed immediately!"
"Ew! I'd prefer to stay home though!" Alice whispered to herself. Suddenly the door to her room flew open and her mother angrily pulled back her bedclothes.
"I've had enough Alice! I said move it!" She then stormed back to the kitchen and continued her clattering and banging of pans and dishes. Gradually Alice dragged herself to the bathroom and showered.
"No time for breakfast this morning!" her mother bellowed as if Alice couldn't hear. Soon Alice was bustled in the car and unloaded at her school entrance.
"Hi Alice!" a friendly face appeared from behind her. Alice smiled. It was her friend Sam. Running to catch up with them both was Jamie.
"Hay you two!" he began puffing, trying to catch his breath. "How are the losers today? Still in love?" Jamie quickly hurried off to become part of a gathering of his mates who were assembling in the playground. Alice remained speechless. Sam had been her friend since their first days at kindergarten. He was a friend, no her best friend. They both enjoyed reading science fiction stories and collected rocks, and could talk for hours about any topic at all. She certainly didn't consider Sam to be a boyfriend, well not like the others thought he was. As Alice and Sam walked past the group they heard whispers and mumbles. Normally Alice was able to cope with the subtle harassment but on this particular day she was unwilling to ignore the situation. Tears began streaming down her cheeks and she ran quickly to her classroom, unpacked her bag and sat in her chair and tried to disappear into the pages of her open book.

"You are a bigger loser today than normal!" stated Bill, one of the boys who was considered a part of the 'winners' group. Overhearing this comment Sam quietly sat alongside Alice.
"Alice!" he nervously began. "Do you want to show me what you are reading?"
"Ah nerd! You are a bigger loser than she is!" exclaimed Bill loudly so everyone in the room could hear. Alice remained buried within the pages of her book, continuing to even ignore Sam. Just as Bill was about to deliver more insults their teacher burst through the door.

Choose an ending........a happy ending in which everyone wins!!!!!

read story endings by Helena and Blaine

read story endings by Caitlyn and Elliot

read story endings by Martin and Darius

The children quickly identified the unhealthy and demoralising feelings these kinds of circumstances can evoke. Without mentioning children’s names, when they first began exploring the situation, they revealed their awareness of how each had contributed to perpetuating the negative and destructive thinking and behaviour. They especially realised that at any time they could also find themselves in the losers group and being subject to harassment.

The children then created and shared their own endings reading them together quietly in pairs. Magically, without any further follow up and discussion, the problem seems to disappear. No punishments were necessary but awareness levels were raised and behaviours changed. Personal and realistic scenarios like these can assist children to quickly appreciate the significance of win-win involving and happy endings for everyone and highlight everyone’s responsibility in ensuring peace prevails.

Rewriting history

Many stories from history recorded cruelty and injustice and revealed many unhappy endings particularly in stories about the lives of Australian convicts. Convicts continued their living lives of crime merely to survive in the harsh Australian Bush. They believed the establishment would rarely consider pardoning them or attend to the injustices that were abounding. Most of the recorded stories are not peace-building stories and revealed a time when a peace-building consciousness was struggling to emerge. Despite the hardships and injustice experienced by the convicts children learn from the following activity that different choices could have been made.

Activity 4- Context: Australian Studies year 6: Bushrangers

Task: to create a fictitious bushranger character and construct a story about their lives that ends happily. The story should not have any detailed violence and end with everyone winning. The story needs to be based upon realistic issues relative to the times bushrangers roamed the Australian Bush revealing your awareness of the injustices that occurred. (This particular group had previously extensively researched bushrangers and discussed the relevant social issues.)

The children:


inserted a digital image of themselves in an Appleworks Painting Programme and created an image of a bushranger about whom they would create a story


revisited their researched information and gathered then shared their ideas with a small group of peers


began planning their story and shared ideas with a friend


typed the first draft of their story


shared their story and discussed with a friend possible changes to names, the plot and setting and the resolution


edited their own story making recommended changes to complete the task


asked their parents to be included in the editing process if they wanted to be and their peers edited each other stories, made positive suggestions


formatted and edited final copies, inserted their bushranger image and published their work with their parents shared their favourite rewritten stories from the class

Questions were asked of them:


Would you have liked to have lived during these times?


Where all bushrangers treated unfairly?


Do similar injustices occur in today’s world?


How were bushrangers punished if they were caught?


What would a happy ending be for bushrangers who lived during these times? 

Caitlin, as had the other girls in the following stories, indicated she was aware of the issues involved and managed to craft a story plot that explored many of the pertinent issues. Her particular ending revealed her belief that punishment was necessary as the crimes warranted it. Yet as a prisoner her character was treated humanely with no sense of brutality occurring.

read story by Caitlyn

read story by Prudence

read story by Jessica

Not all stories were resolved in a true peace-building sense but at least the issues were understood and additions to endings could become the essence of further class exploration. The students did recognise that the collective consciousness has changed over time.

Transforming sadness and focussing upon the positives

The following activity, used with a class of year 6 children who were teamed with year 3 peer support partners, was focussed upon the following story. The story highlighted that life does have its sad times but also there are happy times. We can choose to lift ourselves above the sadness and focus upon the positive, as does the main character in the story, or we can choose to drown in sorrow unable to create happy endings. Happiness is our personal responsibility and relies upon learning to focus upon the positives.

“The Last Clown” by Colin Thompson

(Hodder Children's Books Australia 2002)

Clowns have forever been the circus' colourful characters who bring joy and happiness to audiences even if a word is not spoken by them. Their antics alone can bring about great laughter and relief from the seriousness of our worlds. This sensitive and heart warming story about an old clown is for all ages to enjoy and share together and it contains many peace-building elements, but especially deals with the notion of happy endings.
We are immediately introduced to Zippo the Clown as the story begins. He delights crowds and laughter is heard everywhere. But Zippo has a more important role in the circus. He must take care of the circus children. A touch of sadness enters the story as the ageing clown must deal with tragedy. The story, though, is intrinsically one of hope. So how does the story end? It ends happily with everyone winning especially Zippo and tragedy is transformed as Zippo's love miraculously heals a child's wounded heart and spirit.
The happy ending in this story evolves from tragedy but also there are many other essential peace-building elements inherent in this beautiful story. Zippo teaches that no what happens we can seek positive outcomes. There is always hope and all will be well.

Critical questions to explore with children


What tricks did Zippo perform in the circus?


What other jobs did he have to do?


How did Zippo treat the children?


What happened to Max?


How did Zippo help Max recover from his injury?


How do you think Max felt after his accident?


Do you think Max enjoyed performing as a clown?


Does the story have a happy win-win ending? 

Creative questions to explore with children


Do you think clowns are happy or sad people?


What age is a good age for a clown to be performing?


Was it fair that Zippo had to look after the circus children?


Should animals perform in circuses?


What do you enjoy the most about circuses?


Would it be a hard life working in a circus?


What other things could Max have learnt how to do?


How else could the story have ended with win-win?

Activity 5- Context:  Year 6 and year 3 students Peer Support Programme

Task: creating a story about a clown who overcomes tragic circumstances and ends happily with everyone winning. The year 6 students’ specific task is to teach their peers MS Word and Drawing Programmes and appropriate editing processes.

The peer group activity involved:


teacher reading story to both classes together


peer partners sharing any previous circus and especially clown experiences


year 3s choosing a name for a clown, listing possible tricks (personality profile)


students using Appleworks Painting Programme to transform image of year 3 student into a clown year 6 students taught year 3 students how to use the programme and insert digital images


peer partners together typing their story


year 6 students editing each others’ stories and making suggestions for changes of plot while focussing upon happy endings


year 3 students reading second drafts and negotiating plot changes


final type up and publishing by year 6 students


students drawing picture together on final copy


celebration day: face painting and party and sharing of published stories (face painter invited to teach face painting skills)


stories transformed into webpages for whole school community to share 

read story by Will and Billy

Will and Billy have reflected upon the life of a clown, including the good times and the bad, resolving the story happily and depicting their clown as focussing upon the positives of his situation. They have revealed a healthy emotional connection with the realities of life and have captured the essence of a peace consciousness within the framework of their simple story.

read story by Gus and Ivana

Gus and Ivana have together created an ending that focusses upon friendship as being the source of happiness.


The concept of win-win is fundamental to peace-building. The activities provided present a variety of different contexts to use with children and can assist in raising their awareness of this essential element to any peace-building being successful. The activities also provide opportunities to begin developing the necessary skilling involved in the process of peace-building. It is a concept that perhaps children need to be made aware of before any further elements are explored.



[1] Hans Christian Andersen wrote the fairy tale The Three Little Pigs and their encounter with a big bad wolf.

[2] Three Billy Goats Gruff is a famous Norwegian fairy tale in which three goats cross a bridge, under which is a fearsome troll who wants to eat them.


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