Wednesday, May 04, 2011

1000 Paper Cranes

千羽鶴, or senbadsuru, is a group of one thousand origami paper cranes held together by strings. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury.
This past March I was beginning a unit on Japan in my World Geography and Cultures class and had decided to do a project wherein small groups of student taught the rest of the class how to do a Japanese art. One of those arts was origami. As Aya and I searched around Shanghai to get enough origami papers for each student to have a few sheets to fold we started talking about how long it would take someone to fold 1000 cranes. I had heard about this before and seen the strings of thousands of cranes for Sadako Sasaki in Hiroshima.

Somehow the obvious then dawned on me for I had been looking for a fundraising project for the students to do. Since the earthquake on March 11th Japan had been on my mind a lot and now I had the perfect opportunity to bring my students, teaching Japan arts, and helping Japan together. Should we fold 1000 cranes it would be our collective wish for Japan to heal from the events of March 11th. As a school and community we could show our support.

By April 7th I had ordered 2000 sheets of origami paper, I assumed some would be lost or discarded in the process of folding (378 were by final count). I then informed my students of the task ahead of them; to sell paper cranes to friends and family. The friends and family could then write a personal message along with their names on the origami paper. The cranes would then be folded and everyones wishes put together. The catch, the students would have to fold all 1000 cranes. I was not going to fold one and they couldn't get help from other grade level students or their parents. Of course I helped out by holding folding sessions and providing snacks while playing Japanese anime everyday during the lunch period for 2 weeks, but I never folded a crane.

As our two week deadline for completing 1000 cranes approached I was beginning to realize that there were much more than that flooding boxes in my classroom. After spending another week of lunch periods stringing them together it became easier to count all the cranes and we came out with 1622. I was amazed and really all those cranes together are very beautiful.

For a week they are hanging in the foyer of our school and then they are being boxed and shipped to Oregon where they will be matched by a 2 dollar donation per crane by the Bezos Foundation. Then I am told they will travel again to Denver to become part of a giant art installation that will hold 500,000 paper cranes.

At the end of the day I am happy that I got to share such a wonderful thing with my students and to help Japan by raising not only about 5,000 dollars but a connection to japan as well.