More than 600 paper pinwheels adorned with images of doves, peace signs, hearts and colored patterns whirled on the lawn and graced the halls of Waldo Pafford Elementary School on Wednesday.
“It’s not a general focus on the horrors of war,” art teacher Carol Hough said. “It’s a positive focus on whatever gives you peace.”
For Hough — who has a son currently deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, with the 4th Infantry Division, based out of Fort Carson, Colo. — the Pinwheels for Peace project transcends politics.
Students designed and constructed their pinwheels from 9-inch squares of white paper during two sessions of Hough’s art classes to join schools worldwide in celebrating the International Day of Peace.
Two Florida high school art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, began the art installation project in 2005 to encourage students to express their thoughts about war and peace, tolerance and living in harmony with others, according to the project website.
Hough adopted the project because it falls in line with her art-with-a-purpose philosophy and provokes discussions on symbolism and the role of art elements like lines, shapes and colors, she said.
She began the lessons the day after the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and used the event to introduce the topic.
When asked what the project means to them, fifth-graders Symira Bostic and Anyah Brooks both said they enjoyed the lesson because it shows that people still can have happiness, hope and love even though “bad stuff happened” on 9/11.
“The meaning of art is to tell people in a creative way how I feel,” Symira said. “Instead of through words, you put (your feelings) in a paintbrush or with a crayon.”
While putting finishing touches on their whirlers, many of Lashunda Harvey’s fifth-grade students said they enjoyed “thinking outside the box” for the project.
Six soldiers from the school’s partner battalion, the 1st Battalion, 30th Infantry Headquarters and Headquarters Company, were on hand at the school Wednesday, helping younger children tape their pinwheel creations to the school’s walls during the rain.
When the clouds gave way to blue skies, fourth- and fifth-grade classes planted their pinwheels on the lawn as planned.
Pfc. Brian Eason, who frequently volunteers at the school as a mentor and tutor, said the outreach is a good way to show the community that soldiers have their support.
It also provides comfort to many of the students, whose own parents and relatives may be in the service, he added.
“Many of the children relate to us, and they share their stories about their parents and siblings and their deployments,” Eason said.
Hinesville resident Lou Patterson, who has multiple brothers in the service, came to watch her daughter and niece take part in the celebration.
“We were talking on the way here about how the Bible says to do unto others,” she said, adding that it’s sometimes hard to explain to children how the military works toward the ultimate goal of peace.
“We know that our family members in the military have a job to do, and they go with the intent of finishing the mission so we can have peace here.”