Anyone who folds a thousand paper cranes will have their heart’s desire come true.

— Japanese legend

In the wake of the disaster in Japan — earthquake, tsunami, nuclear radiation leaks — what could kids half a world away do to help the Japanese people?

They could believe in a legend and get busy folding.

That’s what the students, teachers and staff at Norwood School in Bethesda did last week, using the Japanese art form of origami to send good wishes to Japan.

“At my school, one of the lessons they like to teach us is about what we can do for the outside world. Making 1,000 paper cranes would show Japan that we’re encouraging them to get better. ... I think all over the world everyone’s heart’s desire is that Japan gets better,” said sixth-grader Carolyn Hoover, 12.

The project was the idea of art teacher Eneida Somarriba, who, along with her husband cut a thousand pieces of blue and white paper. (Those are the school’s colors.) Then she told her students about her idea.

“They were very enthusiastic. And then it began to spread: The teachers wanted to get involved; people from the business office folded while they were working,” Somarriba said.

What started out as a middle school project spread to younger children, who could do the beginning folds even if they couldn’t complete the entire, complicated artwork.

“In the end, the children were teaching the teachers how to fold,” Somarriba said with a laugh.

Soon, every moment was being used to fold. “I would get messengers bringing me bags of cranes, and teachers would ask me to send more paper so they could fold after they finished a test,” Somarriba said.

But it was the purpose behind the project that made everyone want to work so hard.

Somarriba remembers one student talking to her about the project. “The child said, ‘It is difficult to fold, but compared to what the people of the Japan are going through, this is nothing. So we can fold 1,000 paper cranes for the people of Japan.’ ”

Eighth-grader Armand Keshishian, 13, had the honor of making the 1,000th crane. “I made it a special one; I wrote ‘1,000’ on it,” he said.

And if children like him in Japan hear of the Norwood project, how would it make them feel?

“I really hope it makes them feel some sort of relief that somebody else out there is caring for them and wants them to get out of these bad times and get back to their normal lives before the tsunami and earthquake.”

Somarriba delivered the project to the Japanese Embassy in Washington last week, but the work goes on: Some of her students took paper home with them to fold more cranes over spring break.

— Tracy Grant