AN UPDATE FROM PRAIRIE, IDAHO

May Peace Prevail on Earth

Hello Jim~

I want to share with you a rather unique journey of our Idaho Peace Pole Project.  As you and I have been in touch throughout this process, I’d like to share what I believe has been the heart and soul of this undertaking for me.  Though I have been retired from the classroom as a full-time art teacher for approximately 7 years now, I have remained very active in the schools as a college supervisor for student teachers and as a teaching artist for our state arts commission.  Because of that, I network with a majority of the art teachers around the State and am still in and out of the classrooms presenting art to a number of grades and students.  From the beginning I knew that I wanted the Peace Pole Project to go beyond a single classroom.  I wanted the project to encompass as many students, mostly, adults and also in a variety of venues.  Yes, now more than ever we must bring consciousness to what Peace means in our homes, our schools and communities and our World.  It is imperative that we model and mentor Peace for the children who will be faced with newer challenges in a complex world as they grow up.  It was my quest to engage some of my friends and teacher friends to embrace the project with their students.  As I worked with students and teachers at the elementary level,  I encouraged students to think about what Peace meant to them and what it might look like in their own homes, schools and communities.  We discussed and brainstormed ideas, on the board, topics about respect, bullying, getting along, not fighting, loving others and being tolerant of other people’s views and opinions.  Discussions alone proved to be very valuable.  We wrote ideas on the board and expressions, both made up from individuals and others from famous people, about Peace.  Honestly, I sometimes think we should let the very young rule out world.  They cut to the heart of what Peace means and they are able to explain it in such simple terms, that I wonder why Peace seems to be so elusive worldwide!  The decision was made to create pieces of cloth with messages of what Peace means.  Sometimes students worked on long strips of cloth, coloring the pieces with a method of batik and tie dye.  Other groups of students worked on squares of material or very long cloth banners using paint, pencils, markers.  The Peace Pole Project took me from tiny one room school houses, with student enrollments of 6-10 to larger, traditional schools.  Some of my very dear teacher friends had their students work on pieces of cloth to contribute to the project.  Schools in Idaho from Boise, to Meridian, Horseshoe Bend and Moscow, to one room school houses in Prairie and Three Creek contributed.  Kids were so excited to be a part of something larger, and especially when it was explained that Peace Poles exist all over the world.  At our yearly state art conference I presented the idea of the Peace Pole and at the conference teachers were able to contribute a handmade piece of cloth of their making to the project, and then were able to take the idea back to their classrooms.  And as I am a ‘think outside of the box’ educator, I took every opportunity to take this project beyond borders.  My doctor son went on a volunteer medical trip to Ethiopia and was able to have some of the children there make pieces for the pole, which he brought home to me.  One of my daughter’s went on a mission to the Philippines with her church as part of a mission to help stop human trafficking and worked on several occasions with girls in a safe house on a banner for the Peace Pole Project.  She is also working with young men from a rural group home who will greatly benefit from this project, searching their own inner souls about the meaning of Peace. A friend of mine visited Vietnam and was able to get several people to write messages of Peace to contribute.  My dear friend, a teacher in Guam, is working with her students on a large piece of cloth for the pole.  Even one young girl from Kansas is working on a piece to contribute, because she wants too. Each work of art is lovely and original and so filled with heartfelt ideas about personal Peace and Peace on a larger worldwide scale.  Later this summer, I will assemble my art teacher friends, former students and student teachers, family and any young students who want to help in the creative venture of working collaboratively to take all the pieces created over the past year and construct one very large, eclectic and powerful message:  Our Peace Pole.  The site will be indoors at a wonderful place in Downtown Boise, Idaho called The District.  Their mission is as follows:

“We desire to provide our community with great food, local, freshly roasted coffee, and more importantly, a safe place to be loved. We believe that genuine love is the answer to the problems and struggles of this world, and we aim to make that known by loving each person who walks through our doors. This type of all encompassing love is impossible outside of God’s perfect love, which can, and does, change the world one person at a time.

The District Coffee House is non-profit, and your purchases are helping those in need all over the world. Whether feeding and educating orphans in India, providing medical care for leper colonies, or helping a local family have access to food and diapers—your cup of coffee is providing more than just a caffeine kick, it’s providing hope.”

This is the ideal and perfect venue.  Construction will take place during the month of September and will be on display permanently from September 21, the International Day of Peace/the World Peace Day.  I will provide a plaque describing the project and will encourage anyone visiting The District  to pick up a marker and write their own messages in the year to come about Peace.  And as stated, this Peace Pole Project will act as a “constant reminder… nothing more, nothing less”.  What an honor it has been to be a part of such a wonderful endeavor-  Thanks Jim…

Blessings,

Jennifer Williams

Idaho Teacher of the Year 2002

Artist and Author

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