When the students at Cameron Elementary School in West Covina returned to campus last week, they were greeted with a colorful, hopeful flock of 1,000 origami cranes.
In Japanese legend, 1,000 origami cranes tied together on a string guarantee good luck and eternal happiness. After a year of dropping out of school due to the coronavirus pandemic, Cameron Elementary students and teachers could use such a hopeful reminder.
Laurie San Miguel, a third grade teacher at Cameron Elementary School who organized the art project, said she wanted students to return to campus and be inspired by happiness and joy.
“I knew I wanted to do something with them that would bring them some joy,” said San Miguel. “It has always been art for me. That was my inspiration. I just wanted the kids to come back to something that is happy. “
All the students who returned to school went through the multipurpose room and saw the cranes hanging from the ceiling. Second graders’ TK returned to school last week. Third through fifth grade students are returning this week.
“My mind was overwhelmed when I saw them,” said Aaiden Benitez, 8, a third grader.
Third grader Bhea Untalan, 8, found one of the cranes she had made in the display. “It’s hidden in sight,” she said.
Second grader Haley Perales, 8, said she liked the crane exhibit because “there were so many”. But mostly she was excited to be back at school “to see my friends up close”.
Students and teachers on campus are following COVID-19 safety protocols mandated by the Los Angeles County Department of Health. The desks in the classrooms are 6 feet apart. There are plexiglass shields between the desks. Air purifiers are installed in each classroom.
Headmistress Sylvia Fullerton said there were about 70 students on campus on Thursday, the first day for a group of TK through second graders. They are divided into two groups. One group is on campus on Mondays and Tuesdays. The other group is on campus on Thursdays and Fridays. The third to fifth grades are also divided into two groups.
“There was a lot of preparation at all levels,” said Fullerton. “One of the first things we really needed to make sure we were strengthening the protocols. We had to know these to a T, back and forth, and implement systems to follow protocols. “
The students wrote messages in the origami cranes wishing them better times. San Miguel said some of the messages were as simple as wanting to end the pandemic. Others were wishes for family members to relax and stay healthy.
“When you have a thousand cranes, wishes come true,” said San Miguel.
“I wanted this to be a physical representation of the hopes and wishes for the children while they were at home.”