George Washington Students Rally for One Million Bones

George Washington Middle School (GW) students have hand-crafted more than 1,000 clay bones to raise awareness about youth in conflict around the world and to raise money for international aid. Today, the school celebrated the service project with artist-activist Naomi Natale, founder of the global One Million Bones campaign that schools nationwide are engaged in, during a morning assembly.

Photo credit: Flordelino Lagundino

"One Million Bones" is an international, collaborative art installation designed to recognize victims and survivors of ongoing humanitarian crises in the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and Burma. The installation is an enormous undertaking to cover the National Mall in June 2013 with 1 million handmade bones as a visible petition against genocide and other human rights violations. Supporting the project is the Global Nomads Group, a New York-based nonprofit. Through its "Students Rebuild" program, each bone raises $1 (up to $500,000) thanks to funding from the Bezos Family Foundation, and will help further the work of CARE, a leading humanitarian organization.

Natale, also a TED senior fellow, told GW students why she was moved to act. "[Bones] are most significant as an example of our human connection, and a reminder that we belong to each other." "When we accept the idea that we belong to each other, we recognize our responsibility to each other." The students also heard from Myra Dahgaypaw, a prominent human rights activist and campaigns coordinator for the U.S. Campaign for Burma. Meeting weekly over the course of two months, GW students in grades 6-8 learned about the regions affected by humanitarian crises and made bones. Many students will volunteer in June to support the installation on the Mall.

The school-wide effort promotes "international mindedness," an important aspect of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme (IB-MYP). GW's IB-MYP Coordinator Emmet Rosenfeld said, "The big ideas that we want students to take away from this experience are simple: We are all connected. You can make a difference."

The project has inspired students to get engaged. One seventh-grader wrote this reflection in her advisory class: "We are doing this to help others. To teach us that we are all the same. We share something in common, and that's bones."

Another student, sixth-grade Liam Davis-Wallace, completed a successful separate fundraising campaign of his own. He created a UNICEF campaign page and then swam 21 laps, ran 11 and biked 12 laps, resulting in $3,259 in donations as of today. You can read more about his efforts and see a video chronicling his experience on The Old Town Alexandria Patch website.