Stacey’s WN Entry: The Sadako Project… A Reflection

Coming together, as a class, to do something worthwhile…

I wanted all of my students to see what teamwork was about. I wanted them to do something as a group to see the amazing results. But was it art for art sake? (Don Graves told me it wasn’t when I shared my original entry with him on Sunday… He said, “Who can say that community building in September is a bad thing?”

When I undertook The Sadako Project at the start of the 2006 school year, part of my students’ homework was to go home and fold 30 paper cranes so that we could, in addition to the ones they folded in class, get up to the 1,000 cranes we needed to bring us good luck as we read about in the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. A parent questioned, rightfully so, why I was doing this project. I wrote her back a long email (what was I thinking!??!)… here’s part of it:

I have spent the past three school days reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes, a work of historical fiction, to the children. It is the story of Sadako Sasaki who was 2 years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. At the age of 11, Sadako collapsed during a race and was later diagnosed with Leukemia. She tried to fold a thousand cranes hoping that her wish to get well could be granted. (Folding 1,000 paper cranes is part of a Japanese Legend, which states that good luck will be bestowed upon someone when they fold 1,000 cranes.) By the time Sadako died she had folded 644 cranes. Her friends completed 1,000 cranes for her funeral.
As you will notice throughout the year, I rarely do art for art sake as a response to literature. When I read books aloud to the children we have thoughtful discussions, as a whole group and as a class. Further, I ask the children to do a lot of writing about the books they read, both with me and on their own, so that they can make personal and inter-textual connections, as well as connections to the world at-large. However, with the first book that I read to the children each year, I do have an art project that is meant to give the children a creative outlet and bring them closer together as a community. (Last year, for instance, I read the book Journey aloud. As a response, the children brought in meaningful photographs and drew pictures of their family, which illustrated why their family was unique and special.) This year, I wanted to bring the class together by working on a common project. I want them to see that they can work together towards a common goal. (Further, this project fits in beautifully with our first unit of study in math, which has the children investigating large numbers like 1,000 and 10,000.)

Together, as a class, the children will create 1,000 paper cranes. I purchased origami paper and clear monofiliment so the children can create the cranes and hang them around the classroom. Since I did not want to take away academic time during the day, I assigned each child to make 30 paper cranes, over the course of the next two nights, as homework. ( The 30 paper cranes should be turned in on Thursday morning. If I find that many children are having trouble with this task, then I will extend the due date to Friday, 9/15. If that is the case, then I will send an e-mail updating families to the change in the homework and I will post the change on the class website.) I did spend time in class this morning showing the children how to make the paper cranes. First I did a demonstration and then I modeled how to do it visually, verbally and through the written directions. I do understand that making the cranes is a tough task, which is why I purchased 9×9″ paper for the children to use (the smaller the paper, the harder it is to fold). However, once one folds a few cranes, the whole process goes very quickly. (I myself have folded over 30 since I did not want to ask the children to do something that I won’t do myself.)

The community part, which will also give the children the chance to practice working in partnerships, will come when the children string the cranes together using the sewing needles and the monofiliment. I will provide class time for this on Thursday afternoon during the final period of the school day. However, I intend to work with a small group of students to physically hang the cranes that are not finished being ‘strung,’ with me during my lunch period the following day. It is my hope that we will have 1,000 paper cranes hanging around the classroom by Monday, 9/18, in time for Open School Night. I believe this project will show the children how to work together, how to cooperate and how to work towards a common goal.

I hope that my explanation provides you with my thinking about the 1,000 paper cranes project.

This parent, after this lengthy response, was satisfied. She not only liked the idea, but helped her child fold the cranes at home. This makes me realize that sometimes, as teachers, we MUST justify our actions so families will get behind us and our thinking, especially when we believe strongly in what it is that we’re doing.

You can see the remnants of the paper cranes we hung (in the background of this news story) by clicking here. The kids took the cranes home in November and this photograph was taken in December.