Monday, September 24, 2012

International Day of Peace Reflection/Last Week of September Service Opportunities

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On September 21, 2012, the 31st birthday of the United Nation’s International Day of Peace, hundreds of students throughout Oklahoma City participated in a variety of activities confirming that there are many paths to peace.

Oklahoma City youth and adults planted approximately 1,000 Pinwheels for Peace at the Oklahoma City University (OCU) Pinwheel Garden, the unifying symbol of our commitment to a self-patrolling non-violent way of life. All day long, random people of all cultures stopped to make their own pinwheels and planted them in the Giant Pinwheel Garden. Little children played happily around the pinwheels as they blew gently on the blades of the pinwheels, coaxing them to spin with their hope of PEACE ONE DAY.

The first group to arrive to OCU were students from DOVE Science Academy. They learned about Peace One Day, an initiative that in 2012 called for a global truce on violence. Then, they viewed On a Paper Crane, Tomoko's Adventure sponsored by the Japanese American Society of Oklahoma, made origami cranes for peace, and wrote imagined peace Haikus. After walking through a peace labyrinth, learning about the importance of quiet meditation, students planted their school-made pinwheels. The SIA Comanche Nation Ornithological Society shared a spectacular Eagle and White Hawk as the drum circle began to welcome hundreds of participants to the OCU International Day of Peace multicultural festival. The magnificent birds had attended a special assembly at Dove Science Academy and were the opening act of the OCU Festival reminding audiences that all sentient beings have a right to exist peacefully, and that all creatures are connected.

Throughout the International Day of Peace, on the campuses of OCU and Casady Schools, hundreds of youth and adults could be seen wearing a t-shirt with a colorful message,"6 Billion Paths to Peace" generously donated by the Shinnyo-en Foundation. The t-shirts are a lovely reminder to “think and act peace.”

A few examples of connections to the billions of paths to peace through kindness and service along with pinwheel making during the 11 Days of Global Unity (9/11-9/21) in Oklahoma city were:

1. Centennial High School observed the shift from I to WE with curricular connections to the 11 Days of Unity (9/11-9/21), pinwheel making, and a school wide initiative for a CALLED2CHANGE and service.

2. At Saint Anthony Hospital’s Human Restoration Unit, students considered the impact of having at least one day of peace throughout the world while making the highly admired giant stained glass pinwheels featured at OCU.

3. At Mercy School kindergarteners enjoyed a diversity storyteller, discussed how everyone is unique and everyone is important. They participated in an art integration project and made pinwheels. The Mercy School Vice-Principal attended a pinwheel making opportunity as part of a Youth LEAD OKC meeting.  Then, she empowered her school to participate in 9/21 for the first year.  Mrs. Buthaina Jwayyed stated that her school will have greater participation next year.

4. The Respect Diversity Foundation invited students to the Downtown Library to enjoy a story-telling event with a diversity author who shared her books, emphasizing the fact that everyone deserves to be respected and that everyone has a story. Participants then created colorful pinwheels.

5. At Piedmont Middle School, art teacher Frances Williams, shared with students the value of a Global Truce and the impact of choosing a path of nonviolence.

6. Western Oaks Elementary School, art teacher Staci Craven, has a 99% poverty rate and a 79% transition rate amongst their students. They discussed the importance of honoring each other and how peace can make the world a better place with emphasis on bullying.

7. At Casady Schools, Upper and Middle Division students viewed PEACE ONE DAY realizing that celebrating this day is working because it is a call to change, a call to create a culture of peace through kindness and service.  It is a day that is saving lives around the world.

From K-12th grade, students pledged their commitment to SEE PEACE in acts of kindness, service, and non-violence.
The Primary Division Director, Mrs. Jane Sharp stated, " We have 109 happy children who celebrated this past September 21st. The children made pinwheels and wrote on them what gave them peace. We all went together to the chapel where Father Blizzard blessed our pinwheels. We sang songs together and then we enjoyed the moment when our pinwheels spinned with the breeze. The joy of looking at these 3-6 year old children celebrate this day was profound. We are a Montessori based program at Casady School. Dr. Montessori emphasized the word peace in her teaching. Montessori said, ""Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education." Every day our teachers are involved with this important work of peace by showing grace and courtesy to each other and to the children so that they may then show peace to others.  We will be celebrating this important date every year with our youngest students here at Casady." 

In the Lower Division art classes, the Silence Foundation started an art integration project addressing complement mentoring as a bullying prevention activity.

The Middle Division English and History classes began a year-long project with a visit to the Oklahoma National Memorial Museum where 7th and 8th graders paused to reflect in the calming waters of the reflecting pool and left their hand prints and thoughts of peace one day in the memorial's walls of fear and hope.

 The high school YAC (You-nite A Community) promoted weekend interfaith family service opportunities throughout the month of September and the MD International Club unveiled a peace symbol a day at their chapel service during the 11 Days of Unity. Anne JOsette Hill, a Casady YAC freshman Chair and volunteer at the OCU Festival from stated, "This is a day the world unites. The thinnng threads of humanity holding us together strenghten. Bonds are formed between countries and individuals alike. This year, for Peace Day 2012, my school made hundreds of pinwheels. We decorated our campus with them and shared ideas of peace with each other. I personally befriended a former rival over a pile of half finished pinwheels, and even if it is only for one day, that day is worth any sacrifice. But it is fragile, like a butterfly's wing, violence will tear it apart. Also like a butterfly's wing, if we care for it, nurture it, and strenghten it, we will fly. What will you do to eliminate violence on Peace Day?"

 By 5pm, inside the OCU Student Center, a dozen co-sponsoring organizations had an array of literature and give-away items. Outside, a large drumming circle began, creating a festive atmosphere with a primal beat.
By 6pm, the performances began in the Great Hall where participants enjoyed the talents of singers and dancers from various ethnic traditions. The grand finale was a dance of peace in which all audience participants were invited to dance to a Pinwheels for Peace song created for this special day. This spectacular day (and the 10 days leading up to it) was a result of many volunteers who believe that "Never before have so many voices spoken out so clearly about building a shared sustainable culture of peace, economic justice and environmental stewardship." It takes a change from I to WE! It takes a Village!


An Elementary School Example of awareness video of Students Against Hunger