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LBE students plant Pinwheels for Peace

Kindergarten teacher Peggy Tracy and kindergartener Nathaniel Bohne march in the parade as part of Long Branch Elementary’s celebration of Pinwheels for Peace. After the parade, students planted their pinwheels in the school’s front lawn.

Kindergarten teacher Peggy Tracy and kindergartener Nathaniel Bohne march in the parade as part of Long Branch Elementary’s celebration of Pinwheels for Peace. After the parade, students planted their pinwheels in the school’s front lawn. Photo by Sarah Hall.

— In a world where the drums of war seem to beat louder every day, peace seems like a far-off dream.

But at Long Branch Elementary in Liverpool, students made it clear it’s a dream worth reaching for.

Students observed International Day of Peace Monday, Sept. 23 (the actual date was Saturday, Sept. 21), by planting hundreds of pinwheels on the school’s front lawn in the shape of a giant peace sign as part of Pinwheels for Peace, an international art installation project started by two art teachers in Florida. The LBE project was guided by art teacher Jennifer Matott, who learned about the effort from its website, pinwheelsforpeace.com.

“I wanted a community event that everyone, all the students and staff, could participate in,” Matott said. “And being the art teacher, I wanted some kind of public exhibit event. I found [the] website, and the message was that we should all have tolerance and understanding for people with differences.”

The message resonated with Matott and the LBE community, which has a diverse population with a high number of special needs students, so she brought Pinwheels for Peace to the school four years ago. The school joins numerous other groups to take part in the endeavor since its launch in 2005. Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, of Coconut Creek, Fla., envisioned the project as a way for students to express their feelings about what was going on in the world and in their lives. In the first year, groups in more than 1,325 locations worldwide participated. Last year, more than 4 million pinwheels were spinning around the world, including the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Each year, using a template provided by pinwheelsforpeace.com, Matott prints pinwheels for her students to customize. One side of each student’s pinwheel features that student’s thoughts on peace — living peacefully with others, war and peace, tolerance, etc. On the other side, each student used art to visually express the concept.

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