Friday, August 13, 2010

Celebrate PEACE with a pinwheel art installation

Have you heard of Pinwheels for Peace? This is a wonderful interdisciplinary project, non-political, combining art and literacy for an outdoor art installation celebrating the concept of PEACE. The idea was dreamed up by two Florida art teachers (aren't art teachers the best?!), and with the help of the Internet, it has become an international phenomenon. All around the world, on September 21st, the International Day of Peace, people will be 'planting' pinwheels. It was estimated that over 3 million pinwheels were spinning last year for this special event! Participating is a wonderful way to kick off your art program for the year, with a message that will resonate postively in your community.

For details about the project, how to sign up, instructions, photos, and more, visit the official website at:

When I decided to do this post, I hunted everywhere on 3 computers (home, school, laptop) for my photos and I can't seem to locate most of them, and the ones I do have have lots of images of people that I can't post. So I'll have to describe the pics I can't locate. Photos posted are from our 1st year.

Basic pinwheels can be constructed from a square of paper a pencil, a bead, and a straight pin. EASY!

Our first year, my 3rd graders arranged their pinwheels in the shape of a peace sign. Other grade levels scattered their pinwheels randomly. As each child planted his pinwheel, he/she told what peace meant to him personally. Answers included everything from fishing on the lake, to reading a good book, to spending time with family, to cuddling with a favorite pet, to more global statements.

Each grade level did their pinwheels a little differently - some were on colored paper, some on white, some on metallic vinyl. The 6th graders made theirs taller, by putting straws over coat hangers.

The 2nd year, we used all the pinwheels to spell out the word PEACE in 7 foot high letters. It was spectacular, and why can't I find the photos?? We measured out and spray painted the letters on the grass, so that the kids just had to plant their pinwheels along the lines.
For the 3rd year, we went BIG. I bought bamboo poles at the dollar store, in the garden supplies. I put an eraser tip on the end of each pole, and then assembled with the bead and pin method. The pinwheels ranged from 3 to 5' tall!
For 3 years we've had between 200 and 300 pinwheels spinning in the breeze. So pretty!
If you decide to participate, the big thing is to have a plan for assembling the pinwheels. I thought the 5th and 6th graders would be able to do it themselves, but I was wrong. So the 2nd year, after the kids had completed their artwork, I had a wonderful team of moms (and one grandma) doing an assembly line of pinwheel production after school. We had a great time and they all got done! Unfortunately, the third year the moms' schedules did not jive, and one mom (who later became my student teacher) and I assembled them all ourselves. It took a LONG time.
We got lucky each year with spectacular weather. Teachers took their classes out to plant their pinwheels and share their thoughts, and the community response was wonderful - I was worried that someone would infer a political message, but it did not happen.
One big thing though - make sure you run it by your administration before diving in. An art teacher in an area school made pinwheels with her kids before asking her principal, and when he found out, he had the teacher send the pinwheels home without ever displaying them. I think he was incorrectly assuming the day had some sort of leftist liberal political agenda and he didn't want any fallout. Encourage a skeptical administrator to look at the website for reassurance. I teach in a fairly conservative Republican community and didn't have even one negative comment. If you handle it right, it will be a great experience for all!


  1. Awesome Phyl! Will try to get this happening at my school. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I signed up for this too! I'm so excited. My principal is on board and I'm going to present it to my staff when school starts. I thought I might have the pinwheels laminated first before assembling. I didn't think about the help in assembling them. I'll be working on that asap! Thanks for the tips and I can't wait to see them all set up in the circle of our parking area! There's a huge grassy area and it will be perfect! Thanks!