By Claire Kitzmiller
From September eleventh to eighteenth, students at Arlington High School and the greater community participated in the Unity Project. The project was an installment of 32 PVC pipes circled around one central pipe. Each pole had an identifier on it and students and members of the greater Arlington community were invited to wrap pink yarn from the center to pole to each outer pole that they identify with.
AHS drama teacher, Michael Byrne discovered the project on Facebook. Byrne said the project was created by two women who are “responding to the division in our country right now.” Byrne teamed up with AHS math teacher, Johanna Begin and they applied for a grant with the Arlington Education Foundation to bring the project to AHS.
Students were invited to wrap their yarn around each pole with an identifier that they felt represented who they are. If there was an identifier that is important to someone but was not on one of the poles, participants were invited to write that identifier on a board next to the project. So many identifiers were added, that people started to write them in the pavement.
Byrne and a group of students chose a list of 32 identifiers including, “i am a Conservative, I am a liberal, I am single, I am in a relationship
The week of the installation was full of events embodying unity within the community. On Wednesday the 13th. The Do Something Club held a bake sale to aid hurricane relief in the country. On Friday the Madrigal singers performed at the project after-school and on Sunday there was crossfit training and yoga on the front lawn.
On Thursday night, a rain storm caused the structure to collapse. The yarn absorbed a great amount of rain, making it too heavy for the poles to hold it. Byrne responded to the fallen structure positively by taking class photos on it and inviting the madrigals to use it as a stage.
Byrne thinks this is an important project because, “We do have disagreements but you don’t have to hate someone you disagree with” and “We can still disagree with each other and respect each other.”
A majority of the school participated in the project. Teachers brought their classes out and students went after school to participate in the Unity Project. While this project is over, Byrne frisées more throughout the year, this project is “one of many moments of conversation and activity that happen throughout the year.”
The project received the Dawn Moses Memorial Grant, a non monetary award, recognizing innovations in education. The Arlington Education Foundation unanimously chose the Unity Project as the recipient.