"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

That quote, by Margaret Mead, is the lesson Emerson Magnet School teachers hope to pass on to their students as they find ways to help victims of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan March 11.

"If my kids know that and feel the power of that, it gets them closer to making some great change down the road," said teacher Beth Dailin, whose third-grade class began corresponding with students at Haijima Elementary School just weeks before the earthquake.

Dailin's students sent drawings of places to visit in the United States and photos of themselves just before the earthquake. Students at Haijima, which is in Tokyo's metro area, were just getting ready to respond, Dailin said.

Having a connection to Japan hit home for students when news of the earthquake broke, she said.

"My students were just riveted to MSNBC on the day of the earthquake. You could hear a pin drop in my classroom," she said.

Dailin said she got a quick e-mail from the teacher whose class Emerson students corresponds with, confirming that everyone was all right.

The students were compelled to find a way to help the students in Japan, Dailin said.

They decided to make origami cranes, a sign of long life in Japan, and write personal messages like "have hope" or "thinking of you" in English on one wing with the Japanese translation on the other.

"They can scatter those around and know that there are other kids in the world that are thinking of them," Dailin said.

Also at Emerson, the district's Leadership Summit, which includes students in grades three through five, was trying to settle on a service project. When they heard stories of the destruction in Japan, they decided earthquake relief should be their mission, principal Vicki Jarrell said.

"It was very clear that this was a very compelling situation," she said.

Students plan to fill boxes with personal necessities, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap, Jarrell said, and send the boxes to Haijima Elementary School, where teachers have committed to helping distribute the items to those who need them.

During the school's family reading night on April 7, students will hold a bake sale and a pie silent auction that will include the pie recipe to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami.

"They're going to be raising funds to send directly to UNICEF," Jarrell said. "They're very excited about doing that."

With the stories that students have heard from friends and family at the school who have a connection to Japan, Dailin said they are learning about the challenges people must face in life and the importance of helping those who are enduring tough times.

"If we're all aware of that, then we'll help where we can, and hopefully, some day that will come back to us," Dailin said. "It really is a small world, and things that they do here can have an impact. One person can have an impact that is significant."

Elsewhere in the district, students at Hanby Arts Magnet School plan to make cherry blossom pins from plastic bottles to sell to raise money for earthquake and tsunami victims.

Leadership Summit students at Central College Magnet School plan a coin drive in April, and the Westerville North High School student council has been collecting money during lunch and in the school's office to raise money for earthquake and tsunami relief.

jnesbitt@thisweeknews.com

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