It is often typical for adults, when confronted with the idea of peace, to respond with a slight smirk and a light-hearted “wouldn’t that be nice.” It seems that too many of us harbor this sort of detached optimism. However, when 5th- and 6th- graders from the Odyssey Charter School in Appleton were asked to present the concept of peace through their own art, the responses were filled with a sincere sense of hope that could only have come from young minds. On Monday, April 18, from 1 to 3 p.m., the newly opened Paper Discovery Center in Appleton will present an exhibition featuring photographs taken by the Odyssey School students. The students of Courtney Rude and Deb Moreland, with the help of ArtsBridge scholar Reid Stratton, set out to present images of peace through the use of digital photography. “The goal of the project is to help the students we are working with foster peace within their school and community,” said Stratton. “This approach allows the students to look at peace from any possible angle.” Some of the students recruited their colleagues as designers and models, while others turned to the world around them in a more candid approach. The resulting photographs range from the realistic to the abstract, each representing the students’ own interpretations of peace. Lawrence professor of education and educational psychologist Robert Beck designed the project’s curriculum. “The students really faced the task with no fear,” said Beck. “I’m very impressed with how these students aren’t intimidated by the idea of being an art photographer.” Beck has since brought the project to schools all over the country and, recently, overseas. This past Monday he flew to Northern Ireland for the opening of a student exhibit in Belfast, where the project took on a different character. “The issue of peace is very sensitive in Belfast,” said Beck, “so the photographs had a more cathartic effect for the students there.” The peace project is part of ArtsBridge America, a program founded in 1996 by Lawrence President Jill Beck. Jill Beck began the program while serving as dean of the arts at the University of California at Irvine. The program’s goal is to provide K-12 schools with ongoing instruction in the arts, through interdisciplinary projects that allow students to explore their own creativity. ArtsBridge serves as a supplement to the core curricula in public schools. All over the country, students like those at Odyssey have been surprising teachers and scholars with their creativity and innovation. Stratton claimed, “I was very surprised to find how quickly the students understood the goals of the project. These students are very creative and very analytical. They know exactly what they want, and they will go to great lengths to get it.” The exhibition will undoubtedly cause you to question the ages of many of these young artists, but Jill and Robert Beck hope that in the future we won’t act so surprised. The exhibit will be displayed all next week at the Paper Discovery Center. For more information, visit www.paperdiscoverycenter.org.