Located in McKinney, TX, art students from Cockrill Middle School are releasing almost 500 helium filled balloons with pieces of personally made origami attached. Each paper artwork is covered with a design made by an art student. Folded inside of the origami is a haiku poem written by a student on one of two following topics chosen by classes collectively; what we are thankful for and our dreams. Pieces about dreams will be attached to white balloons and those about thankfulness to red ones (the colors of the Japanese flag). Each piece is unique with an identification number and a scannable QR code. As the balloons drift away from the school into the unknown they will eventually land and some will hopefully be found. In seeing the QR code on this paper artwork that fell from the sky, it is our hope that curiosity will nudge finders to scan them with their phones. This will lead them to this site where they can learn about the project and report back to students about where they found their origami and their thoughts about the artwork. Students may also wish to increase the artwork’s life span, complexity, and interactivity by requesting that finders do something specific with the paper creations. All communication will be facilitated through this site and the art teacher.
Students were inspired by the story of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese girl born in Hiroshima, Japan, in 1943. She was only a baby when an atomic bomb was dropped on her city. Sadako died from the effects of radiation exposure in 1955 at the age of 12. An old Japanese legend says that if you fold 1,000 paper cranes you will be granted a wish. Sadako had folded 644 by the time of her death. Upon learning of her death classmates continued to make paper cranes and finished her goal. Today there is a statue of Sadako Sasaki in Hiroshima and she has become a symbol for peace.
Each piece of origami and the haiku poems written on the inside is a unique and personal work of art. But the collective action of making and releasing these artworks into the sky is a performance artwork in itself. So many children are caught in the hopelessness of conflicts around the world and are unable to enjoy all of the things we take for granted every day. Some may not even have our luxury of dreams for the future. It is with these children in mind that art students began making origami and haiku poems about their dreams and what they are personally thankful for.
Through this project students not only discovered a new and fun art medium, but they learned a number of other things. Students worked collaboratively taking ownership of the project’s planning and development. Students read about and discussed the culture and artistic traditions of Japan. Language arts were pursed though the study and writing of haiku poetry. Students examined 20th century history and U.S.—Japanese relations and geography. Many discussions and debates ensued. Some students are working with their science teachers to develop a way to calculate the potential distance and direction that their balloons will travel. The fast paced American teenagers also developed their character though the application of the patients needed to complete this very traditional art form.
Students will release their origami laden balloons on December 7th, 2011, the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by Japan and the entry of the United States into World War II. Given the timing of our project, undertones of mutual forgiveness mingle with our primary message. As we release our artworks we are collectively thankful for the peace we have enjoyed and wish that the day will come when everyone child will have the same.