MANATEE -- After sending fifth-graders to Atlanta last year to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr., the staff at Orange Ridge-Bullock wanted to continue promoting peace in a way that could encompass the entire student body.
On Monday, the school unveiled a new peace pole, situated by the front office of the school, near a plaque commemorating King and the school's peace garden.
A message of peace -- May Peace Prevail On Earth -- is inscribed on the pole in the four predominant languages spoken by Orange Ridge students. Students representing English, Spanish, Creole and Chinese spoke the message in their native language during a short ceremony at noon.
"Everybody should make peace. Everyone should go together and make friendship," said Alexander Mendoza, a 9-year-old fourth-grader, who also said peace was important to help prevent war and keep people together. Mendoza read the message in Spanish to the other students.
A grant from the Manatee Education Foundation allowed the school to purchase supplies for every student to create a peace pinwheel, all of which were laid out in a peace sign right before the pole. Students also sang a song of peace during the ceremony.
"I believe that peace starts at a very young age," said Nuris Fanning, who teaches English to speakers of other languages at the school. Fanning, the recipient of the grants for the peace pole and last year's trip to Atlanta, said her inspiration was the International Day of Peace, celebrated on Sept. 21.
Fifth-grade student Austin Sizemore presented the message in English and said he hoped the peace pole would help to keep things from going wrong in the school and in the world. The pole is important to have at the school, he said, "to let people who don't know what peace means know what peace is."
"Peace means good," he said.
Fania Cheridor, an 8-year-old second-grader, presented in Creole, and 10-year-old fourth-grader Xi Wen Chen read the message in Chinese.
Continuing the message of peace and involving the entire student body was a wonderful experience, said Principal Maribeth Mason.
Students in fifth grade helped the kindergarteners create the pinwheels and talked to them about peace, which sometimes can be more helpful than learning about it in the classroom, Mason said.
"From one kid to another can be different than an adult to a kid," she said.
Such efforts can start on a small level and then translate globally.
"It starts with what happens every day," Mason added. "You have to be peaceful with your friends and then that goes out in the community."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter@MeghinDelaney.