Veterans Memorial Middle School students aren’t yet old enough to vote, but they are making their voices heard through the Pinwheels for Peace project.
Hundreds of colorful pinwheels are on display beside the school sign on Brown Bridge Road, courtesy of the sixth, seventh and eighth grade art students.
Some of the hundreds of pinwheels are patriotic in decoration, while others have a hodgepodge of colors and patterns. They all have one thing in common, a peace symbol in the center.
Dylan Pruitt’s pinwheel is red, white and blue on one side while the other side of the 13-year-old’s artwork express some of his thoughts on war.
"War is not right because violence resolves nothing," he said. "And war is not something the Lord created man to do."
Art teacher Christy Mortimer learned about the program while searching online for a project to commemorate both the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and International Peace Day (Sept. 21).
"I read about ‘Pinwheels for Peace’ on the Internet and thought this type of art installation would be a good way for our school to become involved in recognizing how violence and conflict, rather than peace, have become accepted as part of our society," she said.
Pinwheels for Peace was started in 2005 in a Florida high school by two art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, as a way for their students to make their feelings known about what is going on in the world around them and in their lives. The project has grown since the first year when 500,000 pinwheels were planted to 3 million pinwheels in 2009.
The project is simple: On one side of a piece of paper, students write their thoughts on war and peace, tolerance and living in harmony with others. They decorate the other side with designs or colors that visually represent their feelings.
At Veterans Middle School, Carley Lively’s pinwheel has a variety of colors and patterns on the front, while the back proclaims the 12-year-old’s thoughts, such as "If we all had peace, no one’s family members would die because there would be no war," and "to me, peace means no war, to have freedom and to be able to express yourself without being made fun of."
For 12-year-old Alexis Garrett, the idea of peace is a wonderful thing.
"I think it is wonderful because it means we can all love each other and be in a happy environment."
"Violence is rude and happiness means to give joy," said 12-year-old Eduardo Contrras. "To me, peace means to stop all wars and unite universally."
Mortimer said that after seeing the positive results in her students as well as throughout the school from other teachers, the project is something that she plans to continue.
"It is my hope that my students can make a visual statement of their feelings about what is going on in our world and in their lives, and also help awaken the public and let them know what we are thinking… This is our second year being involved with the project, and I’ve already decided that we will make it a yearly tradition here at Veterans."