The Peace Crane Project: How Children Can Be Inspired to Do Good Work

Purpose of the Study: Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, a research study co-sponsored by Harvard University's Project Zero, focused on ways to promote "good work-work of expert quality that benefits the broader society." The purpose of this project is to explore methods of accomplishing that admirable result with primary-age children. Procedure: The project was inspired by the example of Sadako Sasaki, a Japanese child who suffered radiation poisoning from exposure to the Hiroshima atomic bomb. This Japanese child folded paper cranes to help bring peace to the world. This project invited K-8th grade students to engage the spirit and age-old origami techniques of folding paper cranes to further the causes of peace and healing. This study examines the eagerness and understanding of 100 K-Sth grade students and the role that visual arts played in engaging their participation. Findings: The kindergarten children, uncorrupted by the cynicism of their elders, were quick to embrace the spirit of the project. They plunged into the effort with abandon and verve, and at some deep level they understood they were doing good. The older primary school students cooperated, but most older participants were inhibited by the imperative to be "cool." Conclusions: Before children learn what they cannot or should not do or think, they enthusiastically engage in good works; it is their standard, and they do it joyously. I am persuaded that children are born with a gene that impels them to do so, and I have little question that if the challenge is presented engagingly very young children will gladly do good work. Another inescapable conclusion is that art is a facilitator, an elixir that helps children understand and express the unexplainable.