8th graders picked for ‘Paths to Peace’
By SALLY BOYD
Gazette Neighbors Editor
Thanks to the concerted efforts of two Bellevue Middle School instructors, a group of 150 BMS 8th graders will have a very unique opportunity to visit Put-In-Bay and Canada through a program entitled “Paths to Peace: War of 1812 Arts Legacy.”
BMS 8th grade history instructor Joan Gyurke and arts instructor Linda Cochran addressed the Bellevue Board of Education at the September monthly board meeting, giving information about the project ‚which is operated under the aegis of the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service and its Artrain program.
The bicentennial of the War of 1812 will run from 2012–2015, with commemorative events planned throughout North America. The conclusion of the War of 1812 forged a long-lasting peace between three world allies — Canada, Great Britain and the U.S. — which is the basis of the joint educational program between the U.S. and Canada.
To address the perceived lack of knowledge about the War of 1812, the National Park Service (NPS) has begun Paths to Peace, an international collaborative program involving the NPS, War of 1812 historical sites in Canada, middle schools from the U.S. and Canada, and community leaders. Blanca Stransky, superintendent of the NPS’s Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on Put-In-Bay, the main U.S. site location, is chairing the project.
In making their presentation, Gyurke and Cochran explained that because of an on-going relationship with Stransky, who, they said, has been very impressed with Bellevue students during previous visits to Put-In-Bay, the district was selected as the representative U.S. student body for this pilot program. The collaboration will bring together artists and middle school students from both the U.S. and Canada to learn about the War of 1812 and its legacy.
The Bellevue students will be paired with 150 middle school youth from Amherstburg and Windsor, Ontario. Students will participate in three seminars, two at Perry’s Victory and one at Fort Malden, in Amherstburg. The partnership, which began two years ago, will have students first visiting Put-In-Bay in October for a day-long seminar where they will receive instruction from artists and educators, orienting them to the war’s history and introducing them to the various arts-based opportunities.
Students will then spend six months back in Bellevue researching ties to the war, artists/craftspeople of the times, peace movements and international relations. They will use various art forms — visual, media, performing and literary — to create work which interprets their experience and references period culture. It is expected that the work created will focus on the values of peace and international diplomacy, then and now.
Through a variety of connections, the students will stay in contact with their sister city and Perry’s Victory personnel, to continue learning about the park, each other’s history, cultures and creativity. The opposite sister city will then host a second gathering in May 2012 at Fort Malden for students to meet again and share their work with each other.
Culmination of the program will be an exhibition at the Perry’s Monument visitor center during Commodore Perry Education Days and at the end of the five-year project, the park will host an International Youth Arts Festival, bringing all artwork together in 2015 as part of the park’s commemoration of 200 years of peace between the U.S., Canada and Great Britain.
Gyurke said that Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial has obtained a $400,000 grant to fund the program, including travel — possibly via the Jet Express — not only to Put-In-Bay, but to Fort Malden in Canada. She and Cochran are currently finalizing the details of the project, which was approved by the board.
Superintendent Kim Schubert said, “Our students were chosen for their exemplary behavior. This is a wonderful opportunity to expand their boundaries beyond Bellevue.”
Rachel Gore, daughter of board member Val Gore, was the only person to speak during the public participation time. Gore, a Bellevue elementary student, asked the board to consider implementing uniforms for daily school wear, as students often, she said, wear inappropriate clothing — too small, too tight, too short and with inappropriate words. Exceptions could be granted, she said, for Friday spirit days, picture days, etc.
Schubert said the district’s policy committee would take the suggestion under review.