Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Pinwheels for Peace Spin Across Spring Branch ISD

Pinwheels for Peace at Memorial Drive Elementary
Several Spring Branch ISD campuses took part recently in Pinwheels for Peace, an international art and literacy project best known for school yards “planted” with pinwheels and youth-written messages of peace and good will.

In a world where the images from war-torn cities like Aleppo, Syria, tear at the soul, pinwheels spinning in a school yard are simple reminders that the future can be far brighter and flush with the hopes and dreams of the next generation.

Memorial Drive, Wilchester and Woodview elementaries were among schools taking part in the international effort. On Sept. 21, Wilchester Elementary students in prekindergarten through the fifth grade designed nearly 800 pinwheels of all shapes and sizes.

Wilchester Elementary kindergarten students Alexandra and Allison Kassner, Anna Rose Poteet, Claire Osteen and Claire Brendel
Under the guidance of art teacher Stephanie Walton, the pinwheels were both public statement and art exhibit and installation. Mrs. Walton began working with Pinwheels for Peace in 2006, when she taught at Northbrook Middle School. She also helped coordinate the project this year for interested art teachers across the district.

Wilchester Elementary, where she now teaches art, is celebrating 50 years. Students and faculty tied the pinwheels there into the peace, love and happiness theme of the 1960s. Teachers put on Afro-style wigs and wore mod costumes this year to recall the decade’s fun groove.

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Seeing hundreds of pinwheels spinning each September makes Mrs. Walton proud. “Each year, schools across the district, led by the art teachers and counselors, fly more and more pinwheels! It’s something beautiful to see a child’s face holding a pinwheel that is spinning in the wind. It’s definitely a day to celebrate. Playfulness and happiness fill the campus,” she said. 

Pinwheels for Peace was created a decade ago by two Florida art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, as a way for students to express their feelings about what’s going on in the world and in their own personal lives. By one estimate, the violence of war represents only a fraction of the physical or emotional violence encountered by children in their personal and home lives.

The art teachers’ student project was an immediate success. In the first year, more than 1,300 separate locations created and displayed a half million pinwheels worldwide. Last year, it is estimated that more than 4.5 million handmade pinwheels were spinning on more than 3,500 campus and other sites ranging from the United States to Australia.

The event also coincides with the United Nation’s annual observance of International Peace Day, which is followed by many nations and governments worldwide. Woodview Elementary’s Kathy Frith says the campus “uses it more as an anti-bullying and anti-harassment lesson for students.”

Woodview Elementary students "plant" pinwheels.
Woodview last month had 650 students from prekindergarten through fifth grade take part, the fifth year that campus has participated. Fifth-graders helped the PreK and kindergarten assemble their pinwheels and then blow on them and watch them spin.

“When they blow on them and they spin, all the students will smile. That first smile is really the photograph, or the special moment, that describes what it all means, but that’s the photograph so hard to capture,” art teacher Frith said.


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