Dozens of sixth grade students hunched over the black tabletops of their Fort Collins science classroom, carefully folding colorful paper cranes in tribute to a girl who lived across the ocean more than half a century before they were born.
Before they knew it, they’d made one thousand, and their teacher Mary Hunter-Laszlo was packing them onto a plane headed to Japan, where she hung them for the world to see at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.
The park is home to the Children’s Peace Monument, a sculpture that honors Sadako Sasaki, a girl who died of leukemia at the age of 12, ten years after the atomic bombing by the United States. Sadako tried to fold 1,000 paper cranes before her death, hoping that if she did, she would be granted her one wish: A world without nuclear weapons.
In the park, glass cases full of paper cranes surround the monument to Sadako. These paper cranes were made by visitors from across the globe.
“They represent peace,” Preston sixth grader Hayden Hixon said of the cranes. Hayden made dozens of cranes for the display and said he liked the meaning behind them.
Hunter-Laszlo made sure her students learned about Sadako’s story while they worked on their origami cranes. When she left their cranes in one of the glass displays, she made sure it had a simple white tag with black typed letters telling people the story of the students who created it.
“With our wish for World Peace,” it reads, “from the 6th grade students of Preston Middle School. Fort Collins, Colorado USA.”
The cranes made by Preston students do not stack as neatly as some of the others at the park, and Hunter-Laszlo smiled as she pointed out that some of them might look more like ducks than cranes. But, she said, that’s part of what makes the display so special.
“We are so fortunate to live on a beautiful planet, with diverse people, wondrous plants, animals and landscapes,” she wrote on the form she submitted to the park before offering the cranes. “Our gift of 1,000 cranes reflects that diversity in that the cranes were folded with varying degrees of perfection. Let’s celebrate our beautiful world.”