The second-, third- and fourth-grade classes at the school took turns hearing storyteller and origami artist Christine Kallevig tell traditional and modern tales while folding paper into various shapes and figures to serve as illustrations.
Kallevig said she has visited the Mars schools four times in the past six years.
“I would not return if I didn't really love the students,” she said.
Kallevig has written 11 books, six of them on origami. Her latest book is “The Sun, the Moon and the Origami Grammi.”
Her first yarn to the fourth-grade classes assembled in the gymnasium involved a Japanese man whose busy restaurant was nearly bankrupted when a highway was placed nearby. But a poor stranger in rags who received a sumptuous meal from the man changed his luck when he made a crane out of the paper napkin on the table.
The stranger gave the crane to the restaurant owner as a sign of his appreciation, and said if he clapped three times, the crane would come to life.
Soon his restaurant became filled with diners who came to see the dancing paper crane, but the stranger eventually returned and flew away on the back of the crane.
“Today, people still come to the restaurant to hear the story of the dancing crane,” Kallevig said with a final fold before hoisting a large paper crane above her head.
Kallevig told the rapt young audience that in Japan, where origami originated, cranes are a sign of good luck, long life, and world peace. Kallevig said she made a small crane for each year of her mother-in-law's life when she recently turned 89.
Another story, which also originated in Japan, included a poor man living above a fish restaurant whose meager meals were enhanced by the smell of the delicious fish cooking below.
Soon, former restaurant patrons began coming to the building to see the long, thin arm come out the upstairs window twice a day to fan the kitchen's aroma into his apartment.
The students also participated in the origami art by following along with Kallevig as she told two stories while folding an oversized version of the papers given to the students. The students ended up with a heart and a small cup made from construction paper.
“Go forth and find your stories,” Kallevig told the exiting students. “Write them, tell them and remember them in your heart.”
Students filed past a long table that displayed some of the books Kallevig has written, plus intricate origami pieces she has created.
“It was really neat,” said fourth-grader Tori Speranza. “I liked how she taught us to do origami.”
She also appreciated the stories.
“It taught me that you just have to be patient to do anything tricky,” she said.
Her classmate, Johnny Fratto, agreed.
“It was really cool how she showed us how to create something original,” Johnny said.
He also appreciated the ancient stories told by the skilled and animated author.
“I learned that when you're frustrated, you should try to stay calm and do your best,” Johnny said.
He said he would look on the Internet to find some origami instructions because the art can be pursued with any paper except tissue or school papers meant to be given to parents, according to Kallevig.
Mars Elementary Principal Bob Zaccari said inviting authors in to interact with students helps young learners realize how stories take shape, and the process of writing a story for wide publication.
“And it motivates students to use good vocabulary,” he said.
Other speakers who gave presentations on Author Days on Tuesday and Wednesday were Jonah Winter, author of “Roberto Clemente: Pride of the Pittsburgh Pirates”; science writer Jacqueline Adams, who writes for Science World and SuperScience magazines; and Kate Dopirak, who has written for Highlights magazine.
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