MARSHALL - Last year, more than 4 million pinwheels were displayed on International Day of Peace in more than 3,500 locations around the world. This year, 12 third-graders and their teachers at Holy Redeemer School in Marshall decided to join in the worldwide celebration, showing their support by creating and displaying their own pinwheels in recognition of the 30th anniversary of Peace Day on Friday.
"It was fun," third-grader Danielle Ewing said.
While serving as a student teacher in the third-grade classroom of co-teachers Mary Surprenant and Kari Buysse, Jaci Garvey happened to spot an article about Pinwheels for Peace, an international art and literacy project that was initiated by two Florida teachers in 2005. Chosen as a childhood symbol, as a reminder of a time when life was simple and peaceful, approximately 500,000 pinwheels were "planted" that first year on Sept. 21, spinning a message of "whirled peace" in more than 1,325 locations throughout the world.
"We made them for World Peace Day," said third-grader Logan Deutz. "Mrs. Garvey was reading in a magazine and then she found that (the Pinwheels for Peace project). They try to encourage schools, churches, parents and teachers to do pinwheels."
Garvey said the project fit in nicely with the classroom motto this year, which is "Peace" (Positive Effort and Caring Environment).
"We have a classroom theme of peace," Garvey said. "That kind of started the whole thing. We made our pinwheels the first week of school and they've been sitting here gracing our classroom."
Each student, after retrieving their colorfully-decorated pinwheel, gathered around a classroom table and said a prayer of peace out loud together before heading outdoors.
"It was good," third-grader Natalie Marlow said of the project. "The best part was making the pinwheels."
Joey Hutchinson pointed out that the students did not make the sticks, but they did construct the spinning pinwheels themselves.
"I liked building the pinwheels," he said. "We had to cut out the thing, then fold them. Then, the teacher put the pin in. Before that, we had to color them."
Garvey explained that each student was encouraged to write a special message on his or her pinwheel.
"Some of them just wrote peace, and some of them did other things," Garvey said. "They could choose to do whatever they wanted."
Deutz said he thought it was a pretty good project.
"I know what it means," he said. "It means all the people who are in the war right now and love and other stuff."
World peace can be a complicated concept for young children, but the HRS students seemed to grasp that it was a positive thing.
"It's good," third-grader Kaylee Van Hauwaert said. "It's about love. It's about peace. It's about people. And it's about Jesus."
After posing for a photo with their symbols of peace spinning in the wind, the students displayed a visual public statement about peace by carefully pushing their pinwheels into the ground surrounding the HRS sign.
"It was a fun project," Christina Purrington said. "I liked it."
While world peace can mean something different to every single person, it often means the absence of violence, a state of calm or freedom from conflict among people or groups of people. World peace can also be viewed as non-political or associated with the conflict of war.
When everyone was finished and the "newly planted" pinwheels were spinning freely for all to see, the students headed back inside, where they checked out an online map that showed the locations of participants, revealing that people from all over the world were uniting for the 2012 Pinwheels for Peace mission on Friday. And, one of those little dots represented a classroom full of optimistic students from HRS.
"It's good for them to know they belong to a bigger world," Garvey said.