What does peace mean to you?
At Poland Central School recently, dozens of pinwheels spinning in the wind symbolized art students’ thoughts about peace.
Art teacher Floretta Prestigiacomo organized the initiative as part of the international Pinwheels for Peace Project.
As an early school year art project, each student designed a pinwheel with color arrangements, drawings and words they associated with peace, Prestigiacomo said.
“I wanted a really nice kickoff project that all my students could participate in and understand,” she said. “Peace is something we’re looking for not just in school but all over the world.”
The Poland Pinwheels for Peace took place on Sept. 20, the day before the International Day of Peace. All of Prestigiacomo’s students — kindergarteners through sixth-graders, as well as eighth-graders — made pinwheels.
This was the first year Poland students participated in Pinwheels for Peace.
Two Florida art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, launched Pinwheels for Peace in 2005 as a way for students to share their feelings about what’s going on in the world and in their lives.
After starting with 500,000 pinwheels at 1,325 locations worldwide in 2005, Pinwheels for Peace grew to more than four million pinwheels at more than 3,500 locations this year.
The Pinwheels for Peace Project defines peace as “a state of calm and serenity, with no anxiety, the absence of violence, freedom from conflict or disagreement among people or groups of people.” The organization, however, also embraces the idea that peace can take on a different meaning for each person.
Peace can be anything from having some silent time to yourself to going to a hockey game, Prestigiacomo said, so she encouraged her students to think about what peace means to them.
She also approached the subject differently for different grade levels. For younger students, she read them a book about peace and talked about what the word means. Many students said peace means quiet, and she gave them other examples such as watching the snow fall or a dog taking a nap.
With her older students, she went deeper into the meaning of peace — discussing topics such as war, intolerance and bullying.
“It was something that all students could take at their own level and express their feelings about,” she said.
Pinwheels for Peace organizers chose pinwheels for the project because they’re a childhood symbol that could remind people of a time in their lives when things were simple, joyful and peaceful.
Poland students used the front of the pinwheels for creative designs — drawing, painting and making collages to visually express their feelings about peace. On the back of the pinwheels, they could write their thoughts about peace, war, tolerance and living in harmony with others.
Page 2 of 2 - Writings about peace ranged from a young student who wrote that peace is being with her family and that she loves her mom to some older students who used poetry and metaphors to discuss peace.
When all the pinwheels were planted in the grass on Sept. 20 outside the Poland Elementary School entrance, it was a powerful message of not only peace, but also of school unity, Prestigiacomo said.
“It showed them that they’re part of the whole,” she said. “When everybody does their part, you have something rather wonderful.”