PORT RICHEY — It's become a tradition now, with Gayle Ratza arriving early to beat the morning sun and the hordes of Fox Hollow Elementary students who will arrive to see 660 brightly colored pinwheels spinning with the wind and jetting harmony and good thoughts out into the world.
That's the idea behind Pinwheels for Peace, an international art project that started small in 2005 when two art teachers in Coconut Creek, north of Fort Lauderdale, came up with the idea for students to express their feelings about what was going on in the world and in their lives. International Peace Day — Sept. 21 — seemed to be a good time.
It caught on in a big way. Last year, more than 3.5 million pinwheels were hung on fences and stuck in the earth in countries throughout the world.
This is the fourth year that Ratza has asked her art students to write their thoughts on paper cutouts, then bend and fold them into something bright and whimsical.
"They've gotten to expect it now," she said as she went about the painstaking project of attaching them to the chain-link fence surrounding the school car loop. "It's great when they come here and try to find the one they made."
"I love it because I love art," said Amelia Montano, 9, who arrived early with her mom to help her teacher create a pinwheel peace sign on the school's front lawn.
"I love it because I think it sends a good message, and at times like this I think we all need a good reminder," said Amelia's mom, Marissa Montano. "I just wish it could be more than just one day."