Students Shine at Peace Ceremony
Children at Anna Maria Elementary School lead the way on Peace Day.
HOLMES BEACH – A children’s story about the number zero’s concern that it has no value set the mood for this year’s Peace Day at Anna Maria Elementary School.
Rooted in the aftermath of the 9/11 al Qaida terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon, AME’s Peace Day celebrates International Children’s Peace Day Sept. 21.
The celebration was based on the Catherine Otoshi children’s novel, AME Guidance Counselor Cindi Harrison, who organizes the Peace Day celebrations, referred to the character frequently. The story is an effort to boost self-esteem among students as this imaginary character finds it can become quite important when paired with other numbers.
Music teacher Catherine Miller liked the idea of mixing peace with the book’s character.
“It’s about standing side by side,” she said. “It’s about harmony and diversity.”
Principal David Marshall addressed the students after they gathered on the front lawn of the school near the walkway to the front entrance. He thanked the contributions of money and time from the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island, which purchased the Peace Pole that serves as the basis for the annual celebration.
Then, students marched out carrying flags from foreign countries to be planted around the Peace Pole, which has the word “peace” in all languages of the world inscribed on it. In the lead was a student with a big silver zero-shaped balloon. Behind it was the Rotary Club flag, a peace symbol flag and the highest flag, the American flag.
After the school’s new American flag was raised, Madison Buchannan, a sixth-generation Island resident, sang the National Anthem. Madison’s family was watching proudly in the audience.
After the Roser Church Children’s Choir sang, Harrison pointed out their contribution.
Mary Grace Cucci was then called to the front to light the peace candle followed by Dr. Laura Redeker’s kindergarten class singing a spirited song about numbers.
Several students came to the front to do a song about numbers and how the value of each letter in the alphabet, from a (1) to z (26), and when it is applied to the letters in the word “attitude,” they equal 100 percent, but before that, Zero the Hero appeared in a red and white outfit with a big zero on it. Again, Harrison referred to the book.
“We know everybody here has a value,” she said, pointing to Zero.
The first-graders came up to do a surprise performance of a peace song.
“You can make a difference,” Harrison said, following the song. “We all count, and it’s what’s inside us that counts the most.”
Rotary Club President Lynn Zemmer thanked the students, staff and parents for their attendance and said her club believes in “Peace through service.” She then showed kids how making a zero with their arms and then stretching those arms out straight brought them together as they touched their neighbors’ arms
Second-graders then came up to describe, “What I think about peace.”
The attendees became “wrapped up” in peace when a huge peace chain made of small, individual rungs of paper was pulled around them.
Finally, Harrison asked Zero what he liked to do to have fun. He mentioned a few thing and then he yelled, “Bubbles!” and then the fun began. Small bubble containers were passed out and soon, the sky was full of translucent orbs, which kids chased and popped. Zero had a huge ring and made huge bubbles, and everyone, including Marshall, was enjoying bubbles in the beautiful Florida weather.
As she closed the event, Harrison thanked fifth-grade teacher Heather Nyberg for bringing the book “Zero” to her attention.
Miller wrapped up her feelings about participating in her first Peace Day celebration.
“What I found so fantastic was the message, everyone has a value,” she said. “It goes along with the Oct. 16 musical about friendship, peace and working together at our next PTO dinner.”