WESTMONT – In her second year at Holy Trinity School, Debbie Zeller’s goal has been to make history come alive for her art students.
It’s a goal she plans to accomplish by sending more than 1,000 paper cranes her students constructed to the Hiroshima Peace Park in Hiroshima, Japan.
“With my passion for teaching and thinking outside the box, I wanted to take it a step further by having the cranes sent to another country,” Zeller said.
The cranes are part of a project Zeller instituted with her fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes. The students had read the book “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” and she wanted to incorporate art and reading.
The book shares the story of a girl battling Leukemia who tries to instill peace on Earth, according to Zeller. She said the girl – Sadako – believed if she could fold more than 1,000 paper cranes, she would be cured.
Sending the projects across the world to Hiroshima will help increase the students’ self-esteem and give them a sense of accomplishment knowing that their work is being promoted and supported, according to Zeller, who is shipping out the paper cranes at the end of next week. She said the students have constructed about 2,000 cranes total.
“It became a lifelong lesson for the kids, and that’s what learning is, a lifelong experience,” Zeller said.
Ellie Kaiser, one of Zeller’s sixth-grade students, said she’s excited for the cranes to journey across the world.
“It’s cool because people on the other side of the world can know what the people on this side of the world are doing,” Ellie said.
And while Zeller was creating the plans, a group of her students found a way to use the project in her honor.
At Holy Trinity’s second annual Oktoberfest on Sept. 21, a group of seven fourth-grade students sold about 60 cranes to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation.
“When they came up to me and they showed me the cranes and the money they raised, I was moved beyond words,” said Zeller, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2012, but now is in remission. “I couldn’t believe the students took it on themselves, it was very touching.”
The cranes sold for 25 cents each, according to Ava Gustafson, one of the fourth-grade students who helped out. She said selling the cranes was really special for her class.
“People were giving us twenties, fives and dollars. It was just amazing and I want to keep doing it for the rest of my life,” Ava said.
The students plan on raising money again at Holy Trinity’s St. Patrick’s Day fest, according to fourth-grader Hannah Simpson.
“[Selling the cranes] just made us really happy because we love our teacher and she loves us back,” Hannah said.