Giving peace a chance — 1 page at a time

(Original article: Stephanie Michaud, Nashoba Valley Voice, Nov. 26, 2015)

In 2004, a group of determined and curious Groton-Dunstable Middle School fifth-graders joined Betsy Sawyer’s after-school club, Bookmakers and Dreamers Club. Their efforts to create and bind their own construction paper books soon evolved into a dream of breaking a world record.

One day after a school book sale, Sawyer found herself and her students turning pages within a “Guinness World Record” book. They were interested in the record for the worlds smallest book. Instantly, the group imagined what the world’s biggest book would look like.

“The kids were all saying ‘We can do it. We can make a big book,’ so I threw it back in their laps and said ‘How? What would the topic be?” Sawyer said.

After contemplating different themes and sizes, and how it would be put together, the group made its idea a reality over an 11-year period.

Recently completed, the book is titled “Pages for Peace.” It is 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide, contains 1,200 pages, and 3,500 individual pieces, all telling a story of peace. It includes letters, poetry, artwork and a song collected by the group over the years — all relating directly to world peace.

The group sent out letters to world leaders such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, and to other children in the world asking them the same questions.

“All the kids wrote to different people and pretty soon letters started pouring in. I’d go to my mailbox and I’d run to the kids whenever someone wrote back.

It was such an exciting time,” Sawyer said.

Once the letters were collected from individuals around the world, the group was able to enlarge them and have them printed onto special DuPont Tyvek pages.

Sawyer said the project was a multifaceted learning experience for all of the students involved. Students learned about leaders of the world, how to research and take notes, and even some engineering skills when discussing the book’s creation.

“I cannot stress the learning that came from this and the educational value of this project. It interested the kids so much that no one ever quit,” Sawyer said.

The book did not break the Guinness World Record for “Worlds Biggest Book,” but is considered the largest peace book in the world. Now that the book is completed, it is ready to be shared in major museums where others can read it.

“The next phase is what we are calling the world tour and we are hoping to add on messages electronically so as it travels people can write what they feel and just keep adding pages,” Sawyer said.

Last October the book was featured in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library. In February 2016, the book will travel to New York City to be placed in the United Nations Headquarters.

“From there we have probably had a dozen places that have investigated us to see the book so we are going to figure out how to fund that,” Sawyer said.

The students involved in the project are now juniors in college but still contribute to the book.

“All are interested in peace-minded studies, global issues, international relations and the environment. They are leaders and peacemakers. They have inspired over 500 younger students to join peace club and be involved in the project,” Sawyer said.

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