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Children at US School Show Their Support for Victims in Japan

Students making paper cranes at Somerville Elementary School in Ridgewood, New Jersey
Students making paper cranes at Somerville Elementary School in Ridgewood, New Jersey

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Cranes are large birds with long legs and necks. In Japan and other East Asian cultures, they represent luck and long life.

Japanese tradition says a person who folds one thousand paper cranes gets the right to make a wish. Some schoolchildren in the United States have been folding cranes. They want to show they care about the victims of the March eleventh earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Almost forty Japanese-American students attend Somerville Elementary School in Ridgewood, New Jersey. But all five hundred twenty-five students at the school have heard about the disasters. So they have decorated their school with paper origami cranes. Their wish is for a speedy recovery for the Japanese people.

Art teacher Samantha Stankiewicz says the activity gives students a way to express empathy for victims.

SAMANTHA STANKIEWICZ: "For children, the folding of the cranes has been a really positive way for them to feel like they’re actively engaged, even though the cranes are symbolic."

These students thought out loud as they folded cranes in the school library.

BOY: "The crane is a symbol of hope, so we try to have a lot of hope for those people in Japan."

GIRL: "It makes me feel really happy that everyone's caring for another country."

GIRL: "I feel sad for them, like really sad for them. But I also feel happy for us, because we are really trying to help out."

And that help is not just in the form of paper cranes. The school principal, Lorna Oates-Santos, says children at Somerville Elementary have raised about two thousand dollars for disaster relief agencies.

LORNA OATES-SANTOS: "We will be donating that money to the American Red Cross and Save the Children. They are two groups that are ready on the ground in Japan to help the people of Japan."

The school has a television club that produces weekly programs on different subjects. Fourth-grade teacher Gabrielle King is director of the club, and says the students are involved in the school's efforts.

GABRIELLE KING: "When the earthquake happened, the children wanted to know what they could do to inform other students and raise awareness for the people in Japan. So, we decided to do a show on the earthquake, and to also making the cranes, the origami cranes."

Some American children have shown their feelings for the victims in Japan in other ways. Yasuhisa Kawamura is Japan's deputy consul general in New York.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA: "One American young girl dropped by the consulate a couple days ago with her own painting. The painting shows the two countries, Japan and the United States, shaking hands over the ocean, and saying 'We are with you.' So, we are very, very moved and touched by this young girl's expression."

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. The East Asia Program at Cornell University in the United States has a lesson plan and directions for folding origami cranes. You can find a link at I'm Steve Ember.


Contributing: Peter Fedynsky and Bernard Shusman