Voluntown Elementary School students contribute to national One Million Bones project

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Voluntown - posted Mon., Apr. 15, 2013
One Million Bones Voluntown Elementary School
Voluntown Elementary School students (l-r) Jenavie, Julie and Ari provide narration during the One Million Bones presentation at VES. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

Voluntown Elementary School students will be sending some of their art work to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., as part of the One Million Bones collaborative installation, aimed at raising awareness and spurring action against genocide.

The students offered a presentation April 9 at VES, during an Art, Music and Poetry Integration (AMPIN) program, the culmination of a year-long study of social justice issues spearheaded by sixth-grade VES teacher Jake St. John. The students read the book “A Long Walk to Water,” a true account of a Sudanese boy caught up in his nation’s civil war, then composed poems about the human rights they would uphold “If I Were In Charge of the World.”

The students’ goals were wide-ranging, diverse and sometimes even humorous. “We’d never get in fights. We’d never be told what to do,” said one student. Others included: “People wouldn’t be homeless or without friends;” “Every child would be born, no matter what;” “Couples could speak their vows;” “I’d take away shootings, massacres and war;” “People wouldn’t have to walk 8 miles to get good water;” “Fairy tales would come true.”

In addition, junior high students and VES art club members sculpted human bone forms from clay, working from reference materials under the direction of VES art teacher Nancy MacBride. The bones, which were fired in a kiln for permanence, are intended to draw attention to human rights abuses in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to urge U.S. government action to intervene, according to the One Million Bones website.

All aspects of the project – literature, art and music – came together during the public AMPIN presentation. Students read the poems aloud, accompanied by digital percussion musical backup that they composed, and one by one placed each of their bones on a long black runner for display. Afterwards, students and their parents browsed the display of poems and photos of the students at work.

MacBride said she was glad that the teachers were able to collaborate with students and bring so many disciplines together in the project. “We’re a great team. Voluntown teachers work together,” she said. “I’m really happy there’s time in my schedule to do this kind of integration.” She said that computer teacher Margaret Voland coordinated the printing of the student poems and photos, and collected them into a book, which was presented to VES Principal Alicia Dawe.

MacBride and Voland will accompany the bones to Washington in June. “We hope to get a live broadcast back to the students,” she said. “It will give our students more of a background on how people go to the Mall for marches and to communicate with the government.”

One Million Bones state coordinator Mary Quintas, who attended the student presentation, said that the Bezos Family Foundation will donate $1 to CARE International for each bone presented at the National Mall. The funds will be targeted for aid in Somalia and Congo, she said. “We’re not really asking people to donate money. They donate this and it triggers a donation,” she said.

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