Paper Cranes


In a little foray away from the whole poetry thing, I would like to give an update to what has been going on in the library!

In late March, in anticipation of visiting students from our sister city in Japan, I blew the dust off our origami books and taught the kids how to fold paper cranes.  Somewhere in the hubub and in my sales pitch I told the kids, “We are going to make a THOUSAND cranes!  A THOUSAND!”  I tied this pitch to the classic book, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” which I had NEVER read. (mistake)

So we set to work and folded.  And folded.  And folded. It was hard, I would model step after step after step.  Kids cried.  (Expensive) Paper would get wadded up and thrown in frustration.  After two weeks the kids were done.  They groaned when I pulled out the origami paper.  When we got into the heart of Poetry Month, I was ready for some respite.

But here is the deal.  Part way into the folding process a couple of kids approached me and asked if we could send the cranes to the “Sick Kids” at Seattle Children’s Hospital.  Being a tiny fishing town in Alaska, those kids who were really sick ended up there.  And we all knew them.  Sisters, brothers, friends, our students and classmates.  It was quickly arranged and the cranes were going along with a small donation from a few teachers.

I counted up the cranes we had folded, estimating which sized box we would need and realized we had only met half our goal.  500.  We had 500 cranes.  That is when the next weird thing happened.  I actually READ Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes with my reading group.  And here is the story-line: (HUGE spoiler).  It is a true story of a little girl from Japan who had contracted Leukemia due to radiation from the atom bomb dropped in Hiroshima.  Unbelievably sad. Heartbreaking. In the hospital a friend brings her a golden paper crane and reminds her that if you fold a thousand cranes you can make a wish.  The little girl in the book wishes to be well of course. She folds and folds, her family folds and folds.  The rest of the story is a count-down of sorts.  At 356 cranes she rallies and goes home, but with the 500th crane she is sent back to the hospital. And… just like that, on the 644th crane, she goes to sleep and never wakes up.  She did not fold a thousand cranes.

I DO realize that Sadako did NOT die because she didn’t fold a thousand cranes.  She died because she was a victim of war.  Radiation caused her illness, not paper cranes.  That really didn’t matter to my little reading group.  Their eyes were huge and teary.  We HAVE to fold a thousand cranes Mrs. B, we HAVE to.

So the next week my classes came into the library.  But before we got to work on cranes I sat them down.  I explained what it meant to be in a strange town, in a strange hospital, and feeling scared. Almost every kids had a story.  I said we were going to fold a thousand cranes and not only that?  Each crane needed to be folded with love in our hearts.  These cranes were going to sick, sick children.  If we were feeling frustrated we needed to find help from a friend.  We needed to have fun.  We needed to send only positive vibes.

So today I am at 975 cranes.  We will be done today.  You see, the kids stepped up.  They started bringing me cranes they had made from magazine pages at home, marvelous little cranes of all shapes and colors!  They came in during their lunch recess and asked if they could fold a crane before they went outside.  Big kids, little kids, boys, girls, kids who thought they were too cool for origami, they ALL pitched in.  I couldn’t believe the change.

I tried to figure out the change of heart.  And I think lies with me.  I hope it doesn’t sound selfish or corny saying that, but my attitude, even when I thought it was fine, wasn’t. When I approached crane making like a lackluster kind of chore or some abstract goal that I had set for the kids based on a book I only *sort* of knew the story line to, they picked up on it.  BUT when I read the book, responded to the heartfelt tears from the kids in my reading group, when the story *hit* me cold and hard in the gut, the kids read that too.  The step by step directions were identical, but the feeling behind them wasn’t.

I love these kids.  I am proud of them, proud of what they accomplished.  In the end I had to stop them.  Stop them from making cranes.  We have enough already I told them as I strung those last 25, we are done.

What is next?  Kindness stones, and this time?  It was the kid’s idea, and it is going to be great!

From: Hai1 Crafts



6 thoughts on “Paper Cranes

  1. An inspiring story! What you say is not corny or selfish, it is true, as a literacy coach(teacher) who travels to many different schools and classrooms, the places where the kids are most engaged are those students surrounded with adults who have passion for their teaching and for life.


      1. This is so inspiring! Please submit this story to one of the national teachers’ magazines. Teachers everywhere will feel and celebrate the learning experience you have had and the joy children have in doing for others.

        Liked by 1 person

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