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Happy 50th Birthday, U.N. // Love, Pinellas Park Elementary School

Fifth-grader Crystal Rivera proudly proclaims her involvement in the 50th anniversary celebration of the United Nations.

Crystal and her classmates at Pinellas Park Elementary studied the organization in art class. Then they designed and decorated banners to be displayed on United Nations Day and during World Week of Peace activities Oct. 24-31 in New York.

The banners, measuring 18 by 36 inches, are emblazoned with messages of peace and brotherhood. They will be tied to others from throughout the world to form a ribbon of unity, said Pinellas Park art teacher Maryann Hamilton.

Hamilton learned about the project last summer at the Fifth World Congress of International Educators for Peace at Norwich University in Northfield, Vt.

A goal of the congress was to help educators educate kids about non-violence, Hamilton said, and the creation of banners was one way for children to share in a celebration for peace.

"The children have been excited about it," she said. "We talked about it, and then five fifth-graders actually designed the banners for the rest of the kids to sign. The grandmother of two of our children took them home and put the edging around them. She actually quilted the outline of the world on one of them."

Each of the banners is different, Hamilton said, but each includes signatures of pupils and the name of the school.

Chris Parker and Michael Jones incorporated Parky Bear, the school mascot, into their designs.

"I put a flag in the middle, and I put Parky holding the flag," Chris explained. "I put four worlds with different races of kids holding them, and I put peace signs with stars behind them."

Michael's design includes Parky Bear with a request to "Give Peace to the World" and "Keep the World Safe," he said.

Crystal, who describes herself as Puerto Rican, drew inspiration from her old neighborhood in New York, she said.

"There were a little bit of whites, lots of blacks and a few Puerto Ricans."

Her banner includes "a globe with children of different colors around it, like Puerto Ricans, blacks, whites, Africans and Mexicans."

Once all the pupils had a chance to sign the banners, they were packaged and shipped to the United Nations headquarters in New York, Hamilton said.

But that's not the end of the project.

"Our PTA president and I have been talking, and we've got a couple of ideas brewing," she said. "Maybe we'll design and exchange banners between classrooms or schools.

"And I'm going to Russia. . . . I'll be working in an orphanage for three weeks next summer. There are lots of possibilities."