Leader Resource 2: About Pinwheels for Peace
Excerpted from the Pinwheels for Peace website. All text and images on website copyright 2007, Ayers & McMillan. Published with permission.
In today's world, peace needs to become more than just a word.
Today's students are bombarded with television images, video games, and magazine articles/newspapers that give importance to conflict and war. Violence has become commonplace and accepted as part of our society and, for some students, it is a way of life. It is our hope that through the Pinwheels for Peace project, we can help the students make a public visual statement about their feelings about war/peace/tolerance/cooperation/harmony/unity and, in some way, maybe, awaken the public and let them know what the next generation is thinking. This is not political. Peace doesn't necessarily have to be associated with the conflict of war; it can be related to violence/intolerance in our daily lives, to peace of mind. To each of us, peace can take on a different meaning, but, in the end, it all comes down to a simple definition: a state of calm and serenity, with no anxiety, the absence of violence, freedom from conflict or disagreement among people or groups of people.
A pinwheel is a childhood symbol — it reminds us of a time when things were simple, joyful, peaceful. A pinwheel is easily made using just about any type of material, from copy paper, to thin plastic, to lightweight metal. The stick of the pinwheel can be as simple as a pencil or as intricate as a carved stick or metal rod. Pinwheels can be made as small as one inch in diameter or as large as desired—limited only by the creator's materials and motivation. Pinwheels can be minimal or very complex—imagination, creativity (and a mild breeze) are the only variables needed.
Students will create pinwheels, pinwheels of all shapes and sizes—as part of the creation process, the students will write their thoughts about "war and peace/tolerance/living in harmony with others" on one side. The writing can be poetry, prose, haiku, or essay-style—whatever writing form is appropriate as the children express themselves. On the other side, the students will draw, paint, collage, etc. to visually express their feelings. They will assemble these pinwheels and on International Day of Peace, Sept. 21, 2008, everyone will "plant" their pinwheels outside (at the schools, museum, public places, etc.) as a public statement and art exhibit/installation. The spinning of the pinwheels in the wind will spread thoughts and feelings about peace throughout the country, the world!
Pinwheels for Peace is an art installation project started in 2005 by two Art teachers, Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, who teach at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, Florida , as a way for students to express their feelings about what's going on in the world and in their lives. The project was quickly embraced by their students and the entire school community and by millions of art teachers, teachers, parents, children, and adults who desire peace in our world.
The first Pinwheels for Peace were installed on Sept. 21, 2005. Since then, we have grown from 500,000 pinwheels planted the first year, to 1.2 million pinwheels in 2007!
Please plan to join us again, on Sept. 21, 2008, as we once again celebrate International Day of Peace with "whirled peace"!
When September 21st falls on a Sunday, some schools/organizations may wish to create a community celebration of peace on Sunday and/or plant the pinwheels on their school grounds on the 22nd.
Although the project was originally conceived as a way for students to express their feelings, we are hoping that artists, non-artists, young people, and not-so-young people—everyone!—participates. Peace is something that we all yearn for.
After we launched our project, we discovered a similar, but different, project that was created by Michele Little as a way to honor her brother, [firefighter] David M. Weiss, one of America's heroes who perished in the [World Trade Center] on 9/11. He was a Rescue 1 Firefighter from Midtown Manhattan. David's legacy of brotherhood, unity, and service will carry on through the Unite in Peace organization.
If you would like to extend your mission of peace, after your Sept. 21st installation, send your pinwheels to Unite in Peace and your pinwheels will be sent on to children all over the world. For more information, michele [at] uniteinpeace [dot] org ( contact Michele at Unite in Peace).