Kutztown Area School District and Kutztown University celebrated Peace Day, hosted by Peace.Love.Kutztown on Sept. 21.
Observed around the world on Sept. 21, International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations declaring a day to “commemorate and strengthen the ideas of peace both within and among all nations and peoples.”
This year Kutztown students from elementary through college celebrated Day of Peace.
Middle schoolers created Pinwheels for Peace with art teacher Kris Tuerk. Selected high school and middle school students went to KU on Peace Day to teach college students how make pinwheels which were then used to create a peace sign on the KU lawn.
Meanwhile, Tuerk and a select group of 6th graders created a large peace sign using 300 pinwheels on the front lawn of the middle school. Students had spent that week making the individualized pinwheels to depict their meaning of peace.
For the past 10 years, Tuerk conducted Pinwheels for Peace with her students. Pinwheels for Peace was created by two art teachers in Florida in the 1990s and now art teachers across the nation participate. She hopes students gain collaborative work experience and a communal understanding of what peace is, whether it’s peace from the conflict of war or a peace of mind.
“Everybody has a different idea of what peace means and this gives them a voice. I’ve allowed them to express themselves in this little pinwheel,” said Tuerk.
Kutztown 7th Grade Social Studies teacher Beth Patten, also a founding member of Peace.Love.Kutztown which is a subcommittee of Kutztown Community Partnership, wanted to make Peace Day bigger to include all Kutztown students.
“It’s turned out to be absolutely amazing,” said Tuerk.
Patten reached out to KU professors Vicki Meloney, Amy Pfeifer-Wunder, George Sirrakos and KU Dean of Inclusion and Jerry Schaerer, who is also president of KCP.
“We just tried to make the event bigger and better,” said Patten. “So now every student in Kutztown is getting to participate in Peace Day.”
Kutztown Elementary students wore white, sang the Peace song from Peace One Day, and had quiet time to reflect on their thoughts of peace. Greenwich Elementary students, staff and teachers gathered outside on the school field to form a human peace sign.
Patten said their goal is to show that the whole community is unified for peace, including the university, school district, businesses, and community. By unifying all of these groups shows the community that “young people of the community are committed to positive change,” said Patten.
In front of the KU student union, KU’s Commission on Human Diversity sponsored Pop Up for Peace which included art, music, and food. Students created Peace Day buttons and Pinwheels for Peace.
“Part of the mission of the Commission on Human Diversity is to celebrate all of us here on campus and in our community and to bring people together for conversation and dialogue on topics that we face as humans that are challenging and to come together in a show of peace, love and unity,” said Pfeifer-Wunder who chairs the Commission, which consists of faculty, staff and students.
The Pop Up for Peace event included participation by KCP, KU Social Work and Advocates Club, KU students and Kutztown middle and high school students.
“I like that it (promotes) the meaning of peace. Everyone’s here together, high school, college and middle school students all together in one place,” said event volunteer Kevin Mayen-Abreu, a KU biology education freshman who encouraged participants to shout a spirit chant and provided DJ music to raise people’s energy. “We get to teach each other how we (promote) peace... We’re here to have fun, here to get along with each other.”
Kutztown Area Middle School gifted and enrichment teacher Aaron Ashman said Pop Up for Peace is a great opportunity for middle school students to interact with the community and college students, “celebrate something that should be important to us.”
Kutztown 8th grader Gianna Escobar, 13, said her favorite part of Pop Up for Peace was making Peace Day buttons to show people that it’s great to be peaceful, “Spread the peace throughout Kutztown. I think it’s good to do that to see how many people are nice and peaceful.”
Meloney, one of the Peace Day organizers at KU, said that by setting time aside for people to reflect on the concept of peace is extremely important.
“It allows them a minute to think about what’s going on in the rest of the world and in this one small art-making way come together and support those efforts,” said Meloney.
The event included creating things people could literally take away with them, such as Peace Day buttons, pinwheels and flags.
“Making art with people in this community environment and literally taking a piece of that home with them to live with them, to be with them, may be a constant reminder of this day, of this minute in time and hopefully that will carry through the concept of Peace Day with them in their everyday lives,” said Meloney. “I think it is important for them to keep in mind the general idea of peace, to make space for the people around them, make space for people with different beliefs, different views, different colors, different creeds, different religions and I think if we can do that in our everyday lives, hopefully it’ll make a difference on a bigger scale.”
To watch Peace song from Peace One Day, visit https://www.vevo.com/watch/jahmene-douglas-1/i-wish/UKC5F1600024.