1 Student, 1 Year & 1,000 Paper Cranes Bring Hope & Healing to Tuscan School

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In March 2020, when the South Orange Maplewood School District moved to remote learning to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus,  Nick Mansfield, then a third grader at Tuscan School, began to research origami cranes.

Nick was already adept at making paper airplanes and “fortune tellers” for his friends and classmates. His third grade teacher Barbara Bracey was the one who suggested he try making a crane.

Ms. Bracey had shared the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Elizabeth Coerr,  with her students and she told him about “Cranes for a Cure” – inspiring him to set out on his own mission to fold 1,000 origami cranes.

Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative shapes and figures.

From the start, Nick knew that he’d be making his crane project as a gift for Tuscan School.

Origami Crane Mural

Origami Crane Mural Plan

He started out with a plan, plotting his “crane mural” design on a grid by hand first. Since he had always loved the rainbow photo Tuscan students create every year on the last day of school, he was inspired to incorporate a rainbow and the Tuscan name for the mural design.

Once he had the design ready, Nick got to work creating the cranes. From the book that inspired the project, he learned that according to a Japanese legend, “folding 1,000 cranes, is a symbol of hope and healing during hard times and brings good luck to all.”

Paper cranes that are folded into a group of 1,000, are known as a senbazuru.

While Nick’s goal was to create 50 cranes a day, he said that eventually he had to take a break, “to play the piano and do school work and to give my fingers a break!” So once a week, he’d give himself some time off to rest his fingers.

The cranes were strung on fishing wire with beads and a needle. His parents helped with the stringing and he built and stained the frame with his father.  Nick’s sister Eva and her best friend Madeline Thompson-Ruiz helped by creating the 144 origami hearts that border the mural.  Other than that, all 1,000 cranes were created by Nick.

One year later, Nick, now a 4th grader, accomplished his goal and on Thursday, May 27, 2021, he delivered his masterpiece to Tuscan School. It was no easy feat. The twenty-five pound 9’ x 5’ mural was too big to fit in a car and had to be walked the quarter mile from his home to school. Nick said that walking down Baker Street and Valley was pretty interesting and cars slowed down to watch as Nick and his parents carried it along the route. The walk took over a half an hour, instead of the typical ten to fifteen minutes.

Photo Credit Chad Hunt

While many students have chosen to return to in-person learning, Nick has remained virtual. So for him, it was the first time he was seeing his classmates in Ms. Sandy Smith’s class in person. They, along with Mrs. Bracey’s class joined Principal Malikah Majeed, Assistant Principal Brad Bertani and other Tuscan Staff in front of the school for the presentation and question and answer session about it.

Nick’s hope is that his mural brings,“hope and healing during hard times.” He is very proud of his hard work and so are many others.

Mural by the Numbers – Fun Facts:

3 – minutes it took to make the original crane

1.5 – average minutes to make a crane now

45 – seconds for his record time to make a crane

4 minutes 56 seconds: Fastest time to fold an origami crane blindfolded

13: Times his cat jumped into his box of cranes

127: The most cranes he made in one day

3,168: Number of beads used

260 – feet of fishing wire used

1400: Total origami cranes Nick folded (there were some extras because of color issues)

Origami Crane MuralOrigami Crane Mural
Origami Crane Mural Plan
Origami Cranes
Origami Cranes
Sharing the mural with his class
Tuscan Crane Mural
Nick and Eva Mansfield Photo Credit Chad Hunt
Photo Credit Chad Hunt
Photo Credit Chad Hunt
Photo Credit Chad Hunt


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