By Chris Lisinski
GROTON — 1,000 pages. More than three miles of 10-foot-wide Tyvek.
3,500 letters, poems and pieces of art, some from storied world leaders such as the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela, 12 years of work.
Those are some of the components that went into Groton-Dunstable Middle School’s “Pages for Peace,” a 12-foot-tall, 10-foot-wide book all about world peace.
And now, more than a decade after fifth-graders in Betsy Sawyer’s after-school club started working, the book is set to travel to the United Nations headquarters this weekend to be displayed before ambassadors and dignitaries.
“The UN has been our number-one place of where we’d like to see it (exhibited),” said Anne Polaski, a retired GDMS teacher who is a “Pages for Peace” board member. “It’s just overwhelming to finally see the book going to the UN and being shared globally.”
On Sunday, all 120 square feet of the book will sit — atop a stand specially designed by UMass Lowell engineers — in the lobby of the UN’s headquarters in New York City to coincide with a conference on the International Day of Happiness.
About 2,000 people will attend that conference, Polaski said, so they and any UN officials in the office Sunday will be able to see the book. Almost 200 local residents, including middle- and high-school students who have worked on the project as well as parents, will make a day trip down to New York City to accompany the book.
Even some of the original students behind the project, who started in fifth grade and are now young adults, will attend.
“It’s a really big deal for us,” Polaski said.
The book was formally finished last week, according to Polaski. It had been displayed in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Museum and Library in October 2014, and since then, the pages have had holes punched into them so they can fit properly into the binder.
UMass Lowell engineers will also travel to New York City to help set up the tome.
“As you can imagine, it’s huge,” Polaski said. “It’s packed in 36 long tubes. It goes in tubes, it doesn’t travel as a book. It has to be put together everywhere we go and taken apart.”
Sawyer and students in her Bookmakers and Dreamers Club started began working on the book in 2004 in an unsuccessful attempt to set a record for the world’s biggest book. They settled on a topic of appropriate scale to fill such large pages: world peace.
More students got involved over the years, and they began to collect various letters, poems, pictures and songs relating to world peace. Some wrote to world leaders to request submissions. The finished book includes pieces from the Dalai Lama, former South African President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nelson Mandela, former U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter and former U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, among others.
“It’s been a Herculean task to get it ready, but we’re very excited,” Polaski said. “It’s just amazing, it’s just beautiful.”
Polaski praised her former colleague Sawyer as “the spirit” behind the project’s success.
“She believed in peace education, and she’s just the driving force and the motivator,” Polaski said. “She got kids to believe if they could build this book, peace could be imaginable … This is wonderful for her to see this.”