Teaching Artist > Publications

For Immediate Release
Contact: Christine Bespalec
Art Educator at John Barry Elementary School 2828 N. Kilbourne Ave Chicago 60640
Over 450 students on Chicago’s North West side are up to something. You can see it in the hallways, stuffed into pockets and silently being passed to eager hands.
Students at John Barry Elementary School are using art to reach beyond the walls of the classroom to send a message of hope, courage and positive change throughout the school and into their community. Ms. Bespalec’s art classes are making origami cranes to be sent to Chicago hospitals, shelters and around the world [ to soldiers in Afghanistan who may be in need of a kind word of encouragement. “I am sending a crane to my cousin in Iraq,” told Luis Marcado in 3rd Grade. “I want it to give him strength so he can come home soon.”
Students were inspired by the book Sadako and 1000 Paper Cranes, which tells the true story of a young girl battling leukemia caused by radiation from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima during World War II. Even as her own life was ending, the heroine, Sadako, used origami cranes as good luck charms to spread the message of love, hope and perseverance to those around her. £
Art instructor, Ms. Bespalec stated that “It became so important to all the students to share what they had learned. I was so impressed by their desire to reach out into the community, to their families, to each other and to strangers in need.”
Currently, students at Barry are developing projects, which include displays in the school telling the story of Sadako, placing cranes on lockers and throughout the hallways as well as delivering them directly to people who have influenced their lives. “I am giving one to my mom because she cares for me, “ said 6th grader Maraliz Gonzalez. “I have one on my locker to remember that my friends and family are always there to support me.”
Older students have become mentors to the 3rd and 4th graders, helping share the skills necessary to complete displays and make the cranes that will be sent to Chicago hospitals and nursing homes. “It’s exciting showing the younger ki ds things they don’t know yet. It let’s me share my knowledge,” said Erick Velazquez, a 6th grader at Barry School.
The crane project is still just beginning to spread its wings. Within the next few weeks, personal letters of support accompanied by a flock of origami cranes will be sent to soldiers over seas. Packages containing cranes and copies of the book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes will be delivered to Children’s Memorial Hospital. A memorial has also been designed by the 6th grade to be hung in memory of a teacher who passed away earlier in the school year.
When asked why she enjoyed the project, student Jasmine Torres said, “This project is teaching us that a little bird can be so much more. It can bring hope to someone we don’t even know. That is very powerful.

Illinois Arts Education Association
2004