By LOIS KINDLE
Apollo Beach Elementary was the site of a peaceful demonstration Sept. 21 as about 650 children marched out of their classrooms onto the school’s front lawn.
Students in grades K through 5 planted brightly colored pinwheels they’d made in school to form the shape of a giant peace sign in the grass. Symbolically held on the annual International Day of Peace, the planting showcased the end of an annual four-week art project called Pinwheels for Peace, which has been taught at the school by art teacher Margit Redlawsk for the past 11 years.
Apollo Beach Elementary is recognized as a National School of Character, and this project reflects the school’s mission of teaching children to become both good students and good people.
“Peace Day is an opportunity for us to promote the kindness and respect we talk about daily throughout the school as part of our character education,” said Principal Kelly McMillan. “I’m so proud of our staff for finding ways like this for our kids to contribute to the concept of peace in the community.”
Redlawsk is a member of that staff.
“Each child makes a pinwheel as a symbol of their wish for peace in our school, community and the world,” she said. “In class we talk about the importance of being nice to others, of sharing peace with everyone. Our students learn about tolerance and how having it is an important step toward having peace. We discuss the connections between tolerance, good citizenship and building character.”
Redlawsk noted she continues to guide this project each year for those reasons.
“If we want a peaceful world, we need to start with our young people,” she said.
During Pinwheels for Peace, students spend their weekly art classes learning principles of design, including the use of radial symmetry, lines and shapes, balance and color. They also talk about how love, cooperation, harmony, tolerance, respect and acceptance are essential elements of peace.
To fashion their pinwheels, the children color preprinted designs on one side of small paper squares and then write words describing their feelings about peace on the opposite side. The squares are partially cut, folded into pinwheels, and then fastened to the eraser end of a pencil with a tack.
The Pinwheels for Peace project was started in 2005 by art teachers Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, of Monarch High School in Coconut Creek.
It’s a nonpolitical, visual statement of peace made each year on the International Day of Peace, Sept. 21. Millions of pinwheels are displayed on this day in countries around the globe.
The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 through a unanimous resolution of the United Nations. Its aim is to promote and strengthen the principles of peace among nations and individuals throughout the world.