The Edmond Sun

April 8, 2013

Respect Diversity recognizes Edmond students

Orvis Risner wins 1st place with ‘The Great Tree of Peace’

Patty Miller
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Linda Skinner’s second- through fifth-grade enrichment students at Orvis Risner Elementary won first place for their entry in the 12th annual Respect Diversity contest and will be recognized for their efforts at the annual Respect Diversity Competition & Exhibition Awards Ceremony.

The ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. tonight at the Harding Fine Arts Academy, 3333 N. Shartel Ave. in Oklahoma City.

Orvis Risner students will join students from Nichols Hills Elementary School and Harding Fine Arts Academy in providing musical entertainment for the evening and Starbucks will provide refreshments.

“Guests will experience a video of colorful, creative collaborations by thousands of students throughout the state of Oklahoma exploring diversity through the arts,” said Joan Korenblit, executive director of Respect Diversity Foundation.

The Respect Diversity competition relies on symbolism as the students use art to show how each person is different yet the same using various methods from a park bench in the past that recognized Rosa Parks to types of fish in the sea to “The Great Tree of Peace” chosen by Orvis Risner fifth-graders this year.

“The Great Tree of Peace represents the Iroquois Confederacy, which united five separate tribes as one in peace,” said Caleb Kreaps.

“The Tree of the Great Long Leaves” was chosen by The Peacemaker, the Northern Great Lakes Tribe Huron, to be the symbol of the sheltering league.

“The white pine stands straight and tall, and as an evergreen it represents constant and continuing life,” Skinner said. “Each part of this pine is symbolic, and the students gathered and repurposed everything that the tree was made from including the eagle sitting on top of the tree made from a recycled vinegar bottle.”

Breana Nothubi explained how the students decoupaged phrases, words and pictures that depicted peace to them.

The peacemaker told the tribes to take all of their weapons and plant them under the tree, said Blayk Middick.

The roots of peace spread in four directions, uniting many in a growing peace. The term “bury the hatchet” originated when the Five Nations buried their weapons under the Great Tree of Peace as a vow never to make war against each other again.

“The peacemaker showed the tribes how one arrow could break, but five new arrows bound together could not break just as the five tribes making peace together could not be broken,” said Ryli Smith.

 While the trunk represents unity and strength, the branches represent the clans and nations that are sheltered by the Great Law of Peace. Each needle of the tree represents a person, each important to the whole and the pine cones represent new life within, the coming generations who need protection.

“We use teaching books to teach other classes the symbolism of The Tree of Peace,” said Jackson Hoenshell.  

When asked how the students were going to practice peace in their lives they came up with various answers.

“I want to become part of the government and go to one country at a time telling them about peace,” Ruby Pendergraft said.

In The Great Law of Peace, every decision had to consider seven generations to come.

Caleb said before he makes a decision he will think about its outcome and ask himself how will it affect the next seven generations as the Native Americans did.

The eagle perched above The Great Tree of Peace sees with far-sighted vision, wisdom and vigilance and warns of approaching dangers just as the eagle made and placed on top of the tree by the students.