As a hushed audience of students at Rice Elementary sat together in the gymnasium, a chain formed around them and, while it was physically made of paper, the symbolism of it was even stronger. The paper links were adorned with individual messages of peace and togetherness and carried by sixth graders and their younger helpers, connecting them as one.
After the students who created the chain explained the meaning behind the differing colors of the links, the whole school joined together in song, creating an emotional moment of unity and fellowship.
Art teacher Ellen Malone created the peace chain at Rice Elementary 10 years ago. “We were looking for some way to celebrate the season of peace in a way that everyone could celebrate together,” she explained, “to create a sense of togetherness.”
Before this year’s peace chain entered the gym, Rice Principal Kevin Seyer told the students how lucky they are to have teachers, parents, and others who take good care of them. “Being grateful and being kind is the most important part of the holiday season,” he said, adding that reflecting on the meaning of the peace chain is a great way to promote that sense of appreciation.
The sixth-grade class at Rice created the peace chain, from concept to completion. They began in November by deciding on a theme. This year’s is “Together We are One” and focuses on all aspects of the planet Earth.
Three students –Riley Kompinski, Maddie Hayes, and Jaidyn Helmbold -designed this year’s chain, writing up a detailed outline for the project. Each sixth-grade student made a link in art class and each grade was represented by a different color.
This year’s colors represented various parts of the Earth, from the water and soil to the air and clouds. The sixth-grade chain links were of all colors, made with scratch-off paper to show that the beauty in everyone lies on the inside.
Kompinski addressed the audience as the chain encircled the gym. “We decided to use the elements of the Earth to express the importance of unity in our world,” she said. “Each student, teacher, staff, and parent link represents a different element of our planet. Just as the elements of Earth work together, we must work together as well.”
Librarian Paula Sapak explained how links –about 1,000 in all -not only represented the students, but also the staff of the school, from custodians and bus drivers to the parents and PTA members.
“Anyone who cares for a child in this school is represented on a link in that chain,” she said, adding that the students involved learned about cooperation and working together in the process of creating the chain. While the chain was constructed
in art class, it was in Sapak’s library class that the sixth graders drafted the meaning for each chain color. Other teachers, including Russ Kile, who teaches physical education, and Joe Ziegler, music, also took part in the program.
Ziegler directed the students to sing “Together We Are One” at the end of the presentation and each and every child did, as the students carrying the chain circled around them.
“We are beautiful. We are strong. We are one,” they sang, as some teachers played guitars and symbols to accompany the song. “You are not alone. Together we are one.”
Each student knew the words as they were displayed on a power point