By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Local students are doing what they can to make a difference in the world.
Children in first through eighth grades at The Birches Academy of Academics and Art recently participated in the One Million Bones project.
The international project involved more than 100,000 people from 30 countries, who worked to raise awareness of genocide throughout the world. The three-year effort culminated with an exhibit of handcrafted bones June 8-10 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The 88 students at the Salem charter school dug their hands into mounds of clay and containers of papier-mache to make bones for the exhibit. For each bone, $1 was donated to CARE, a humanitarian organization that helps people in impoverished countries.
Birches Academy student Charles Sette, 8, of Salem had the opportunity to see the exhibit while visiting relatives in Virginia.
The sight of more than 1 million bones on the Mall lawn was an amazing sight to see, he said.
“I didn’t know there was going to be that many bones,” the third-grader said.
But what was even more significant were the lessons learned by Charles and fellow Birches Academy students, according to Head of School Dael Angelico-Hart. The students’ curriculum incorporated what they learned during the project.
Seventh- and eighth-graders, who were studying the Holocaust, watched a video that included interviews with Holocaust survivors, she said. Fifth- and sixth-graders read “Feathers and Fools,” a book about genocide, Angelico-Hart said.
The younger students learned about how every person — no matter how different — has one thing in common: bones.
“It was a good connection for them,” Angelico-Hart said.
Even though he is only 8, Charles was not too young to learn the importance of appreciating others’ differences.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “I learned about how people can die just because they are different.”
Amaya Lessard, 12, of Londonderry said she also enjoyed the project and learned how genocide in countries such as Rwanda has led to the deaths of thousands of people.
Although Amaya said she already knew about genocide before participating in the project, it helped open her eyes to injustice occurring around the world. The project also taught her the importance of speaking out when an innocent person is hurt by someone else.
“I think it made me much more aware of genocide,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of how much it happened. We learned if something bad is going on, your voice can make a difference.”
Amaya’s mother, Ola Lessard, said she was impressed by how much her daughter and other students learned through One Million Bones.
“They did such great projects and learned what is most important to you and how speaking out about something is very important,” she said. “These kids felt very proud to be part of something.”
Students from approximately 30 schools in the state, including Windham High School, participated in the project, according to New Hampshire One Million Bones coordinator Rachel Belmont.