Pinwheels for peace dot Bethel Park elementary schools

Published Sep 25, 2013 at 6:53 am (Updated Sep 24, 2013 at 4:16 pm)

Bethel Park art instructor Kristen Ritchie knows that teaching elementary students about installation art can be difficult. So she and two other elementary art teachers, Amy Mittner and Kelly Eckert-Graffom, decided to create their own version of installation art.

That particular form of art has been in the news lately when the Andy Warhol Bridge in Pittsburgh was adorned with colorful, knitted panels.

The project in the Bethel Park elementary schools was not quite as dramatic, but was accomplished with as much love.

In honor of International Peace Day Sept. 21, students in first through fourth grades crafted pinwheels. Those in the fourth grade made and decorated larger pinwheels.

Ritchie divides her time and talents between Frankin and Memorial elementary schools. She and Mittner share duties at Memorial school. Mittner is also the art teacher at Washington Elementary School. Eckert-Graffom travels between the Lincoln and William Penn grade schools.

During open house at Franklin Elementary Sept. 18, Ritchie placed 350 to 400 pinwheels in the ground outside for the parents to enjoy upon entering the school.

In all, Ritchie estimated there would be 1,200 pinwheels twirling in front of the district’s elementary schools.

Olivia Magnu, 9, said she liked doing the project. She decorated her large pinwheel in the school colors of orange and black for the Bethel Park Blackhawks because she is a cheerleader.

The Franklin Elementary fourth-grader planned on taking the pinwheel home to use as a decoration in her bedroom.

According to Ritchie, the project began last school year. So, Olivia will place her large creation next to the small one she made when she was in the third grade.

Zachary Bradford, also 9 and in the fourth grade, said this was the first year he made a pinwheel “because I was absent last year,” but he can’t remember why. His large pinwheel was twirling in the late afternoon breeze, showing brown and white. There was no significance to his color choice.

“When they passed out the (pinwheel design to be assembled,) I got brown,” he explained.

Neither student had a quick response when asked their definition of peace, as the pinwheels were made to honor International Peace Day.

Zachary did say he thought peace was Saturday morning.

“I like to relax,” he said.Peace, Ritchie said, is one element of the district’s anti-bullying program.

“I always do this (type of project) as I think that art should be out there,” Ritchie said.

She discovered the Pinwheels of Peace Project qualifies for a scouting patch. Thus, she encourages area scout leaders interested in learning more, to contact her through the district.

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