Spruce Mountain Middle School students Maddie Goodwin, left, Brooke Douglass, Jenna Farmer, Ethan Egdall, Lily Fortier and Wyatt Foss have helped collect 57,000 pencil erasers for the “Erase Hate, Write Tolerance” project. The goal is to collect 6 million erasers. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

JAY — Spruce Mountain Middle School students are on a mission to remember the victims of the Holocaust and they are doing it one eraser top at a time.

“I teach about the Holocaust to my sixth-grade class,” English and language arts teacher Mariah Sergio said. “We need to teach more about empathy, apathy and tolerance. These students crave it. Whenever I teach this lesson, they soak it right up.”

The lesson plan includes reading books “Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps,” by Andrea Warren, and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” by John Boyne.

The students are also engaging in a project they call “Erase Hate, Write Tolerance,” for which they aim to collect 6 million eraser tops, each one representing the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust.

The project is modeled after a documentary called “Paper Clips,” which tells the story of Whitwell Middle School in Whitwell, Tennessee.

In 1998, students of the rural school began collecting 6 million paper clips, one for each Jewish person who died during the Holocaust. The Paper Clips Project extended over several years and more than 30 million paper clips were collected.

In 2001, the school dedicated a Children’s Holocaust Memorial, which includes an authentic German railcar filled with a portion of the paper clips collected.

“After watching the documentary last year, we wanted to come up with something that resembled the paper clip project,” said seventh-grader Lily Fortier of Jay

Students approached Sergio and asked if they could do something similar. She told students they could, but it could not be paper clips. It would have to be their own idea and it had to be something that would allow them to store 6 million.

“We decided to start collecting eraser tops. We came up with ‘Erase Hate, Write Tolerance’ to symbolize erasing the hate that Hitler put out in the world,” said seventh-grader Jenna Farmer of Livermore Falls.

Like the Whitwell project, the SMMS project is an after school club. The group of about 25 sixth- and seventh-grade students meets once a week to count erasers that have been collected, write thank you notes to those who donate and brainstorm fundraising ideas.

A dance held at the school last Friday was one such fundraiser. More than $600 was raised. Sergio said the money will be used to purchase erasers and bring awareness to the project.

So far, 57,000 eraser tops have been collected and are displayed in a 50-gallon fish tank at the school’s entrance. Sergio said there has been a lull in eraser donations.

“Right now, we are focusing on the 6 million Jewish people who lost their lives,” Sergio said. “Then we will focus on other groups of people who were victims of the Holocaust.”

The group has not decided exactly what it will do with 6 million eraser tops, but Sergio said there are plans to build some kind of memorial.

“Many people don’t think about the people they do things to or how many people they affect. This helps people to remember to be kinder to other people,” said sixth-grader Brooke Douglass of Livermore Falls.

The project also helps people remember the Holocaust, said seventh-grader Ethan Egdall of Jay.

“It was an important thing that people should recognize and never forget,” he said.

Those wishing to support the project can send eraser tops or financial donations to: SMMS, 23 Community Dr, Jay, ME 04239, Attn: Mariah Sergio.

“It’s not just about collecting 6 million erasers,” Sergio said. “It’s about knowing kids in this community are doing something meaningful.”

Dee Menear — 207-780-9056

[email protected]

Twitter: @DeeMenear

Spruce Mountain Middle School students Maddie Goodwin, left, Lily Fortier, Jenna Farmer and Ethan Egdall count pencil erasers before transferring the classroom collection into a larger collection in the school hallway for the “Erase Hate, Write Tolerance” project. The goal is to collect 6 million erasers. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

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