Pinwheels for Peace

Arlington Elementary students create large art display for International Day of Peace

By Nicole Davis

Millions of pinwheels were placed in schoolyards and other public places across the world on Sept. 21, spreading messages of peace for International Day of Peace. Approximately 450 of those were at Arlington Elementary School in Franklin Township, pinwheels forming the shape of a peace sign in the courtyard.

The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) was established in 1981. In 1999, filmmaker Jeremy Gilley had an idea: create a day of global cease-fire and nonviolence and document his journey. As a result of his efforts, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted Sept. 21 as Peace Day in 2001, as a period of nonviolence and ceasefire. Pinwheels for Peace was a project created to bring attention to the day.

Pinwheels spread messages of peace in the courtyard of Arlington Elementary. (Photo by Nicole Davis)

“A couple of art teachers in Florida knew of Jeremy Gilley and his fight,” said Clara Crosby, visual arts teacher at Arlington Elementary. “They figured no one would know this day exists. They decided the best way to spread the word about anything is children and art.”

Crosby has participated in Pinwheels for Peace in the past, having paused the display during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is the first year those pinwheels have been shaped into a peace sign. Every student in the school decorates a pinwheel and one class was chosen to help place them in the courtyard.

One third grade class pauses for a class photo with the Pinwheels for Peace display. (Photo by Nicole Davis)

The students also shared their thoughts on what peace means to them for a schoolwide video. Many students shared that they feel at peace when they’re at home, playing video games or alone. Others mentioned being kind and caring.

“There’s no fighting; be kind and respectful,” said David Ballinger, a third grader.

Clara Crosby, right, leads the singing and signing of “The More We Get Together.” (Photo by Nicole Davis)

Throughout the day, each grade level met in the courtyard, heard more about the project and sang “The More We Get Together,” signing the songs in American Sign Language.

“They also learn what a public art installation is,” Crosby said. “It’s for a cause. It’s only going to stay up today and tomorrow it’s gone. We all did a lot of work for a good cause, and it goes away. I hope they understand that one pinwheel is beautiful. But for them to be able to see that what happens when you put 450 plus pinwheels together, it makes something so extraordinary. I hope they take from this that one of us can do things but when we work together, we really can turn the world into a beautiful place.”

Pinwheels for Peace. (Submitted photo)