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Pinwheels for peace

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Ashlee Salamon | The Daily Wildcat Ashlee Salamon / Arizona Daily Wildcat Jai Smith Sociology Junior, and Director of Pride Alliance make Pinwheels at their meeting Friday Sept. 18th.

The grassy area in front of Old Main transformed into a blur of color and movement yesterday as part of the global event known as Pinwheels for Peace, organized on campus by Pride Alliance.


Organizers said the idea of the event was to offer a non-partisan expression of peace.

Students at the UA have been making pinwheels since the beginning of the semester, but the project really started to progress at the start of this month.

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""It's not a political statement,"" said sociology junior Jai Smith, director of the Pride Alliance and organizer of the event. ""It's more about expressing the need for an international, peaceful society.""     


To make the pinwheels, students and community members colored a paper template, cut it out and attached it to a pencil using a tack. The Pride Alliance received a $90 grant from the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership, which provided them with enough materials for 600 pinwheels.


The Associated Students of the University of Arizona, the Women's Resource Center, Students Promoting Respect for Individuality Through Example, The Body Shop at Park Place Mall and three local high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools also participated in the event.


Smith said the community has shown a good amount of interest in the project. He called it a relaxing activity.


""A lot of times we don't take time off to do arts and crafts,"" he said.


Sam Wang, a physiology junior, learned of the event through the Pride Alliance and then introduced it to Asian Pacific American Student Affairs, where he is a board member. The group made at least 40-50 pinwheels, according to Wang.


""It starts out with one, but with combined forces, it has a big message,"" he said.

Wang made about six pinwheels. In addition to drawings, Wang said he wrote words on hispinwheels such as ""peace,"" ""equality,"" ""tolerance"" and ""love.""


""To me, I think they are a very simple way of getting our wish for equality and the future benefit of society out to the public,"" he said.


It took four volunteers about one hour to set up the pinwheels. Smith said he had not heard any feedback about the event, but hoped it would start conversation among students. He described the event as passive and said he would like to see it happen again next year.


Pinwheels for Peace was created in 2005 by Ann Ayers and Ellen McMillan, two art teachers at Monarch High School in Coconut Creek, Fla. The two wanted to allow their students to communicate their thoughts for the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.


According to Ayers, the idea for the event came to them after a group of teenagers beat up a homeless person in their community. This motivated Ayers and McMillan to think of a way to give students a voice to express their feelings. They chose pinwheels because they are inexpensive and represent childhood and simplicity.


""When it spins, their thoughts are spun out into the world,"" she said.


Ayers said they focus on inner peace within their students' hearts and lives. She cited the news, video games and music as avenues that glorify violence.


""It's a way to step back and say it doesn't have to be this way,"" she said. Ayers said the project is a way for students to know ""we're a part of something much larger than ourselves today.""


Ayers said her city has embraced the project and now celebrates 10 days of peace, starting with remembering those who died on Sept. 11. Ayers' daughter, who is a kindergarten teacher, has also written a book so younger children can better grasp the concept of peace.


""We are grateful that people feel the same way and feel the need to direct our students in a more positive way,"" Ayers said.


The project has already spread to about 3,500 locations around the world. Ayers estimated about 3 million pinwheels were on display this year, and she hopes that number will continue to grow in coming years.


""If you build a house you have to start with one brick,"" she said. ""And if you want peace, you have to start with one day.""


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