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Kids give peace a spin

Elementary school students make pinwheels to mark the International Day of Peace.

RITA FARLOW
Published September 27, 2006

ST. PETERSBURG -- Five-year-old Dalila Vital has an idea about the meaning of peace.

"Peace means, to me, to be good to your friends and be nice to people," Dalila said.

The kindergartener from Lealman Avenue Elementary School participated in a large installation art project Thursday in honor of the International Day of Peace. To mark the event, several public and private schools in Pinellas County joined people throughout the Tampa Bay area - and the world - in "planting" pinwheels to support peace.

The project, called Pinwheels for Peace, was started in 2005 by two art teachers from Monarch High School in Coconut Creek. Last year, more than 500,000 pinwheels were installed at about 1,350 locations worldwide.

The art installation is meant to encourage students to make a visual statement about peace, whether it relates to nonviolence, tolerance, freedom of conflict or peace of mind. The pinwheels, symbolic of childlike innocence, can be simple or elaborate, small or large and can be installed indoors or outside.

At Lealman Avenue, art teacher Tricia Kennedy ferried groups of students outdoors to install their whirling masterpieces on sites scattered across the school's campus. The kids then made drawings in chalk on the concrete walkways. Many wrote "mom" or "dad" or their own names to express their idea of peace. Kennedy used the project as a vehicle for lessons on installation artist Dale Chihuly and discussions on tolerance.

"It gets them thinking about getting along with others, and thinking globally. It's also a good way to integrate art, multiculturalism and character education," Kennedy said.

Students at Lutheran Church of the Cross Day School in St. Petersburg created pinwheels from an online template. Fifth-graders did writing projects, while younger students created drawings.

Art teacher Stacy Carr said the project initiated thoughtful discussion with students. "(We) talked about how differences are good and not bad, and how you should appreciate someone for their differences, not fear them."

Carr installed the pinwheels early Thursday morning, so the kids and their parents would see them when they came to school that morning.

"I think the fact that other children were doing it everywhere else, that was probably the most exciting part of the conversation. They were really excited they were doing the same thing a little girl in China was doing," Carr said.

At Rio Vista Elementary School in St. Petersburg, the project was used as a springboard for discussions on world peace and inner tranquillity.

After third-, fourth- and fifth-graders planted their pinwheels around the flagpole, they sang America the Beautiful. Flags from other countries were placed along handrails and American flags were placed along the sidewalks to commemorate American soldiers "in memory of their sacrifice for our freedom," said guidance counselor Joyce Albert.

Nearly every student, teacher and staffer at St. Raphael Catholic School in St. Petersburg made a pinwheel, said art teacher Eileen Walsh.

On the outside of the pinwheels, students used illustrations to depict their idea of peace, while the inside included their prayers for peace. The 8-inch-square pinwheels were laminated so students could take them home.

In the spirit of the day, a large sign was posted in front of the church: "Let's Give Peace A Whirl."

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