By Carola Meusel (USAG Stuttgart)April 23, 2009
STUTTGART, Germany -- "Peace brings us together." This was the perfect motto to bring German and American students and their teachers together in the Swabian Special Events Center on April 14 to celebrate the winners of this year's German/American Peace Project contest.
Since 2006, the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Family Advocacy Program and the German-American Women's Club have organized the Children's Peace Project to promote and foster German-American relations.
The peace project focuses on bringing German and American students together to exchange ideas on peace and work on projects related to the topic.
"It is important to listen to children and their thoughts of peace as global citizens," said Betsy Frier-Walker, USAG Stuttgart Family Advocacy Program manager.
Frier-Walker, along with a number of Family Advocacy staff, worked with participating schools on their entries. Students from first through 12th grade were able to participate in an art contest. Sixty-two entries ranged from posters, pictures, to booklets and paintings.
An essay contest was open to students in grades four through 12. In the essay, students were asked to explain in which ways they are able to contribute to peace in their home, peace in their community, or peace in the world.
Eight German schools, along with Patch High School, Patch Elementary School and Robinson Elementary/ Middle School, participated. Members of the German-American Women's Club were responsible for judging the projects.
Sophie Bokelmann, a fifth-grader at Moerike-Gymnasium in Stuttgart, along with Valerie von Huelsen, a seventh-grader at Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium Killesberg, earned first place in the six to eighth-grade category with their essay "How Can We Contribute to Peace."
"It was very interesting to think about the ways we are able to create peace within our own environment," said 12-year old von Huelsen, who was participating for the first time in the peace project.
First-place winner in the art contest, John Henselman, a first-grader from the Pestalozzischule in Vaihingen, created his own world with all his friends of different nationalities in it. He said that "peace is supposed to connect people from all over the world."
Teacher Stefan Zappey's Patch Elementary School German immersion class, along with their German counterparts from the Schoenbuchschule in Vaihingen, created a colorful Easter egg tree.
"The peace project is a wonderful opportunity for the children [German and American] to think about the world beyond their everyday life," said Zappey.
Patch Elementary School was active in providing a variety of posters and artwork. "We wrote poems and created paintings dealing with peace," said 8-year-old Alanna Hill, a second-grader from PES. "I enjoyed working together with our German counterparts," said Aden DeHan, a PES third-grader.
During his speech at the awards ceremony, USAG Stuttgart Commander Col. Richard M. Pastore also emphasized the importance of working with young students on special projects, because "the children are able to express their ideas in an open forum."
The FAP team will end this year's program by visiting the participating schools to hand out certificates and a "cultivate peace" bracelet to all students that contributed to the 2009 peace project.