April 13, 2020 | By: Katie Pratt
Lexington, Ky.

An origami project suggested by a Kentucky 4-H State Teen Council member aims to bring hope to Kentuckians in these uncertain times.

The 4-H 1,000 Paper Crane Project involves Kentucky 4-H’ers and supporters making at least 1,000 origami cranes. It was the idea of Lily Martin, a 4-H’er and State Teen Council member from Webster County. She brought up the idea to her fellow teen council members because of the crane’s positive legend and symbol in Asian cultures. The project is open to anyone, regardless of whether they are an active 4-H member.

“This project is a great way for 4-H’ers to learn about other cultures while they are at home,” Martin said. “It gives participants a chance to contribute to something larger than themselves while learning a new skill."

Cranes play an important role in Japanese, Chinese and Korean cultures, where they represent good fortune and longevity. In Japanese culture, specifically, people refer to the crane as the bird of happiness, as it symbolizes hope and happiness during trying times. As a result, many Japanese people give paper cranes as a gift to others to symbolize friendship and the hope for good fortune. According to Japanese tradition, anyone who has the commitment and patience to fold 1,000 paper cranes, is given the chance to have one wish come true, because they have been loyal to the cranes and shown their beauty to the world.

“Kentucky 4-H believes that it is important for young people to learn about other cultures, so they are able to identify their role in our global society, understand the interdependence of other cultures and countries, appreciate the accomplishments of other cultures, and cooperatively work with others from other cultures,” said Rachel Noble, 4-H youth development specialist and Kentucky 4-H International Program coordinator.

4-H will host a Facebook live project kickoff at 4:30 p.m. EDT, 3:30 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 19. During the session, Noble and Martin will introduce the lesson and complete a crane. The project will run through June 1. 4-H’ers can write wishes for good fortunes or positive thoughts on the cranes as they fold them and either keep the cranes or give them to others.

Instructions for the 4-H paper crane project are available online at https://4-h.ca.uky.edu/files/kentucky_4-h_1000_paper_cranes_lesson_and_worksheet.pdf. It should take between 15 to 30 minutes to make one crane, depending upon a person’s previous experience with origami and skill level. The Kentucky 4-H office is asking 4-H’ers and their parents or guardians to sign a commitment form stating how many cranes they plan to complete. The form is available at https://uky.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_24Z59urr8ZOWA4J. 4-H members should email a picture of themselves with their completed cranes to clover@kentucky4h.org by June 1.

Interested Kentuckians can contact Noble for more information about the project at rachel.noble@uky.edu.

Kentucky 4-H is also working with Michigan State University to explore a virtual reading experience with the book, “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes,” which inspired the project. Additionally, the two programs will host a Virtual Children’s Day Celebration May 5 at 5 p.m. EDT, 4 p.m. CDT. This day is the final celebration of the Japanese Golden Week and is a day to respect and celebrate children’s personalities and happiness. You can find out more on the Kentucky 4-H Facebook page or by contacting Noble.

While Kentucky’s project is just beginning, it’s already gaining national interest. Virginia and Iowa 4-H programs have reached out to Noble to find out how they can duplicate it in their states.

Kentucky 4-H is part of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. The UK Cooperative Extension Service is part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment. With its land-grant partner, Kentucky State University, UK Cooperative Extension brings the university to the people in their local communities, addressing issues of importance to all Kentuckians.


Rachel Noble, rachel.noble@uky.edu

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