Handmade Bones Draw Attention to Genocides Around the World

July 12, 2013

submitted by Ola Lessard

Local students from The Birches Academy, a public charter school in Salem, recently contributed handcrafted bones to the One Million Bones project, an international project to raise awareness of genocide and other atrocities throughout the world.  The students come from a number of area towns, including Salem, Windham, Pelham, Derry, Windham and Nashua.

The students’ bones were displayed on the National Mall in Washington, DC, along with handmade bones from over 100,000 people from 30 countries.  Each bone created by a student was matched by a $1 donation to CARE from the Bezos Family Foundation.  Birches Academy students’ bones were first displayed in Exeter, alongside 10,000 other bones made by New Hampshire residents, before being packaged up and shipped to DC for the international project.

Children in grades 1-8 crafted the bones at the school, using both ceramic and paper mache.  The Birches Academy of Academics and Arts is a tuition-free, public charter school.  Curriculum at the school is arts-integrated, meaning that the arts (writing, fine arts, verbal expression, and so on) are incorporated into all subjects as a learning tool.

Dr. Dael Angelico-Hart is Head of School for The Birches, “We were fortunate that the One Million Bones organization provided excellent resources for each grade level,” she said.

Dr. Angelico-Hart explained how the project was approached with students from different grade levels.

“With our seventh and eighth graders, we expressed the full value of the installation and the impact of genocide throughout the world.  They were shown the online video for the project that includes interviews with survivors.  They had been studying the holocaust in class and discussing the use and meaning of memorials, so it was an excellent support to that learning.”

“Grades 5-6 classes read a book called “Feathers and Fools” that illustrates the root of genocide: the finding of “perceived differences” in others that can then erupt into conflict.  We discussed less about actual genocide throughout the world, and more about how we can better reduce conflict right here at home.”

“Our third and fourth graders were studying the body and skeletal structures, so it fit perfectly for them to create a bone, then metaphorically reflect on the fact that inside all of us is the same structure – we all have our bones in common – and how this can be a starting point for finding common ground.  Children in grades 1-2 focused mostly on the bone as a symbol, discussing the names of different bones, and how we are all the same inside.”