If you’re like most people, you pay scant attention to the insulating cardboard sleeve on your coffee cup. It’s an innocuous part of sipping your morning brew. But what if it was actually a work of original art, with a message promoting peace, tolerance, and understanding?
Starbucks customers, you will start to see sleeves like that very soon at Broward County stores.
The concept of the Peace Sleeves, as they’re called, started at Sunrise Middle School in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago. We watched eighth-grade students at work, with paintbrushes and markers and creativity, turning the cardboard thingies into little paintings. The kids want all of us to wake up and smell the message.
"The message is to choose peace, stop violence," said Cosie Proctor, one of the students working on the project.
It’s part of Broward Public Schools’ Peace Week. The theme is Choose Peace, Stop Violence. It’s sponsored by United Way of Broward and the Children’s Services Council. This year 90 schools are involved, 38,000 Peace Sleeves will be distributed to local Starbucks stores, but it all started in Karen Alfieri’s classroom.
"We decided we wanted to do an activity where my students would be able to take the knowledge they learned in class to the community," said Alfieri, who teaches peer counseling.
She talked it over with art teacher and coffeeholic Stacy Shugerman, who came up with the idea of turning the sleeves into statements.
"I throw away a lot of sleeves so I said there had to be a project my kids could do with it and what better way of spreading peace?" Shugerman said.
So the teachers approached Starbucks, the coffee giant jumped on board, and now the kids are brewing batches of artworks.
"I think they get a real life experience of being an artist, of being able to express themselves through art," said Shugerman.
Every sleeve is original, and each one is stamped with the school of origin so you can see where your sleeve was made. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself smiling at your coffee cup. Which is part of the idea.
"Just makes me happy, like, picturing someone getting the sleeve and picking it up and being like 'Oh, that's cute," said 8th grader Dina Stein.
Her classmate had a similar thought.
"It's cute, it helps you understand what peace is about," said Ludnie Toussaint, as she was painting a handful of sleeves.
So the kids are creating warm messages on a product designed to keep coffee warm, and maybe giving you a peaceful start to your day.