Kestrel Heights elementary students create peace pinwheels

Sep. 20, 2013 @ 04:47 PM

On a sunny yellow wall in Anne Nolan’s art classroom, a peace prayer flag is strung above the whiteboard and reads “peace” in different languages. In Hebrew. English. A student of hers once recognized the Arabic word.

For the first time, Kestrel Heights Elementary School students participated in a worldwide “Pinwheels for Peace” art installation project, just in time to celebrate the International Day of Peace on Saturday.  

The project began in 2005 in Florida, and last year, more than 4 million pinwheels were spinning at 3,500 locations around the world.

The rain cleared at about 9 a.m. Friday and the public charter school’s students jammed the pinwheels on pencils into the ground. The little pieces of art, crooked in the grass, were colored with rainbows and princesses, basketballs and hearts.

The students wrote their personal “peace” on the pinwheels. Riding a unicorn, one read. Swimming at the pool. Little sunflowers with bright yellow petals. Napping.

Inside the art classroom, students were surrounded by reprints of the Mona Lisa, of Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers,” as well as jars of paint brushes, stacks of watercolor palettes and bins of used markers. Self-portraits they had made with paint were lying in drying racks.

Nolan, 23, has taught art at Kestrel Heights for two years and has 400 students cycling through her classroom each year. The first graders are working on cave paintings. The fifth graders are creating their own unique color wheels.

She’s had the international Pinwheels for Peace project idea written down on a sticky note for a whole year, and she has waited for Sept. 21 to arrive.

She said it was hard for some of the students to figure out their individual peace.

“What makes you feel relaxed, what makes you feel happy when you’re doing that?” she’d ask.

Video games, the boys would say. The beach, according to others, or music and reading.

Art is her peace, Nolan shared. “That’s my peace, when I paint.”

Mary Hill, a third grader, said she wanted to share her peace with the world. She usually likes working on abstract and nature pieces in class.

“It means to show our greatness to the world and be nice and show we won’t hurt them,” Hill said of Peace Day.

“We made pinwheels but some of them broke but we put them back together so we can put them in the ground,” said Victoria Ruffin, 9. She held hands with her best friend in her class, 8-year-old Tiffani Reaves, saying that they’re like sisters, but not real sisters.

The girls said they made the pinwheels with paper, pencils and crayons.

“We wanted to show our peace on Peace Day,” Ruffin said. “… I feel excited to help out people. My peace would be seeing other people happy and seeing them smile.”