MIDDLE SCHOOL TRADITION ENDS
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Michelle Wilson and her son Tyler look at rocks painted with peace symbols in the Mililani Middle School Peace Garden. Sixth-graders held their annual peace ceremony, featuring the rocks they painted to be "planted" in the garden.
Sixth-graders give peace a chance
The class sent contributions to Hiroshima for seven years
Mililani Middle School sixth-graders are sending their hopes for peace to Hiroshima Peace Park in the form of 1,000 paper cranes -- for the seventh but final year.
As part of a year-long study of war and conflict, about 200 students folded cranes and painted personal symbols of peace, including sunsets, flowers and flags, on river rocks about 4 inches in diameter. They added the rocks to the school's peace garden following a ceremony yesterday, also a seven-year tradition at Mililani.
This is the last year the course will be offered to students. The Department of Education has cut the course because the subject is no longer part of state curriculum requirements at the sixth-grade level, according to teacher Mona Tokujo.
World War II veterans Tokuji Ono and Martin Tohara have returned as regular guest speakers to their classrooms the past seven years, and each year have offered their own painted rocks to contribute to the garden. They were joined this year by Masaharu Saito and Don Matsuda, also of the 100th Battalion, the highly decorated Japanese-American unit that fought in World War II.
Each student stood up to show his or her rock and explain what its symbols meant. Essay writers Elizabeth Gustafson and Kimberly Takara described what peace meant to them.
Takara referred to the book read by the entire sixth grade, "Sadako and the Thousand Cranes," by Eleanor Coerr. It is the true story of Sadako Sasaki, stricken with leukemia at the age of 12 as a result of the bombing of Hiroshima. She was told that if she folded a thousand cranes, according to a Japanese legend, her wish for recovery would be granted. After folding only 644, she died, but her friends took up her cause by finishing the 1,000 cranes.
This culminated in the construction of the International Children's Peace Monument -- a statue of Sadako, in honor of all children affected by atomic radiation -- at the Hiroshima Peace Park. The Mililani students' 1,000 tiny gold cranes will be displayed there again this year.
Takara's conclusion was "war makes things worse, instead of better (because) innocent people lose their lives." She said she was confused by the double standard of classifying murder and physical abuse as punishable crimes in the United States, but allowing killing to take place during war.
Gustafson said peace "doesn't come easily or cheaply," enumerating the destructive emotional and physical consequences of violence or war.
Matsuda, recalling a truce once agreed on by German troops not to fire so Allied forces could pick up their dead after a battle, reasoned, "If we could make a truce with them, why don't we make peace with them?"
Teacher Kyle Shimabukuro said focusing on the desire for peace over war ends the course on a positive note. The veterans, now in their 80s, reinforced the need for peace through the perspective of battles fought and the passing of time.
Ono said he painted the Latin word for peace, "pax," on his rock with the "hope that the emphasis on peace would help us shape a better world than we've had so far."