Making a difference

Provided Berkeley Elementary School created a human peace sign to celebrate International Day of Peace on Sept. 21.

Students across the Lowcountry don’t just celebrate peace once a year — they live it every day.

Berkeley Elementary, Mason Preparatory School and Buist Academy joined people all over the world by celebrating the International Day of Peace on Sept. 21. On this day, people came together to celebrate peace in their own way. This year, Berkeley Elementary School made a human peace sign to honor the holiday for the second year in a row. Mason Prep and Buist Academy students took another artistic approach with “Whirled Peace.”

Berkeley County School District officials, members of the community, friends and family joined Berkeley Elementary students in the celebration and helped create the peace sign.

“It teaches kids how to work together in a peaceful manner. They learn better in a peaceful classroom,” said Berkeley Elementary PTO President Crystal Lacey, whose daughter, Maddy, is in the second grade.

During the celebration, several second-graders told the school what peace meant to them. They also sang a song about peace that they learned in music class.

“Peace is when you help others find their peace,” Victoria Baker said.

Victoria’s father, Brandon Baker, said he thinks learning about peace and building character are important because of “the way everything is today.”

“We can teach them to be nice to others and hope for the best. If they do one good thing a day, the world would be a better place,” Baker said.

Students at Mason Prep and Buist celebrated with “Pinwheels for Peace,” where they installed pinwheels on their school’s grounds. Students wrote their ideas about peace on one side and drew pictures on the other side.

“Pinwheels for Peace” is an international project and last year more than 4 million pinwheels where planted all over the world in 3,500 locations.

Media specialist Marci Yates has been working at Mason Prep for 19 years and got the idea to bring the project to the school after reading a magazine article on two Florida teachers who started it in 2005.

“I think this is something we’re going to do each year because everyone should instill this (peace) in their mind. It’s not political; it’s just something we all need to work on,” Yates said.

Mason Prep Head of School Erik Kreutner agreed that this is something he wants to continue every year because it goes along with the school’s focus on citizenship and character development.

“I told the students that peace is not just the absence of war. Peace starts on an individual basis based on how they interact with each other,” Kreutner said.

Buist Academy students also promoted peace with yoga, hula hoops, music, dance and art. They also celebrated the school’s anti-bully and peace campaign “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully.”

The International Day of Peace was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1981 to coincide with the start of its session. In 2001, Sept. 21 was selected as the new date for the holiday.

“The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace,” the organization said on its website.

Berkeley Elementary is also a 2012 National School of Character and has been selected as a State School of Character since 2009.

“We preach character traits, trust and cooperation. It’s the whole feeling throughout our school,” said Assistant Principal Toni Ramon.

Twenty-five schools across the country are chosen by the Character Education Partnership each year for the national award. Schools that are selected have “demonstrated through a rigorous evaluation process that character development has had a positive impact on academics, student behavior, and school climate,” the organization said on its website.

Berkeley Elementary Principal Tracy Gaskins and Kreutner both said they teach their students character on a regular basis by having a character word of the month.

“I want them to know that everything they do at school makes a difference, and when they go out in the world, there are people who are different from them. We teach them tolerance,”Gaskins said.

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or jmcduffie@postandcourier.com.