EUGENE, Ore. -- Jocelyn Mendelssohn’s class of 5th graders at Thurston Elementary can tell you all about origami. Better yet, they can show you how to take a piece of paper and turn it into a crane.
The class is working on folding thousands of the small paper birds as part of a lesson that children can’t learn from a textbook.
Making paper cranes has become a yearly global relief effort for her class.
After Japan was hit by a large earthquake and tsunami in 2011, her class decided to do their best to help out. Inspiration came to the class from the book "Sudako and the Thousand Paper Cranes".
"When Sudako folds 1,000 origami cranes, she can make a wish and her wish would come true,” said Mendelssohn. “We read the book then thought, let's fold those cranes and sell them."
The first year her 5th graders made around $1,600 for the Red Cross for tsunami relief efforts.
A year later, super storm Sandy hit the New Jersey coastline. Mrs. Mendelssohn's students used their crane project to support an elementary school destroyed in the storm.
"I feel bad for them,” said student Camren Dyck. “Because (they are) my age. When I think of me going through that, I'd be traumatized."
Like the rest of the world, Mendelssohn’s students were shocked by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines last year.
"There were 54 public schools and all of them except for three of them got flattened," said 5th grader Kayla Murray.
That’s when Mendelssohn decided to bring back a project her students had worked on after a giant earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011. She calls it "Cranes for a Cause".
“We researched and found the Philippines National Red Cross is still there, still working and they're trying to rebuild these temporary schools for kids. So here comes the project again. Open for business again,” said Mendelssohn.
The students do run "Cranes for a Cause" as a business, and everyone has an important job in the operation. From the crane folders, to sales associates who sell the cranes before and after school, to a marketing department making advertisements and signs.
“I had some difficulty in the beginning. I couldn't get it to line up right and stuff like that,” Camren said.
"Some kids take to it really quickly and some are really frustrated because they are trying and trying and they can't do it. But the lesson is to persevere, use teamwork, ask for help... we've been learning empathy,” said Mrs. Mendelssohn.
The class is working to sell all 1,000 cranes for their cause at $1 each. Those interested in purchasing a crane can contact Mrs. Mendelssohn though email.