Spruce Mountain Middle School students stand in front of the Erase Hate, Write Tolerance display case at the Jay school, a remembrance of Holocaust victims. From left are Jenna Farmer, Lily Fortier, Hannah Dube, Grace Espeaignnette and Laurel Brown. The case holds more than 127,000 colorful pencil erasers collected so far. The case also features notes and cards students have received. Submitted photo

JAY — Students at Spruce Mountain Middle School are continuing their efforts to collect six million erasers as part of their Erase Hate, Write Tolerance project to remember Holocaust victims.

The project began in the fall of 2019 and has brought in 127,000 pencil erasers so far.

English and language arts teacher Mariah Sergio teaches the Holocaust as part of the sixth-grade curriculum. 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 project is modeled after the documentary “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 person who died during the Holocaust. The project extended over several years and collected more than 30 million paper clips.

Sergio’s students wanted to do something similar. Over 57,000 erasers were collected by October 2019 and displayed in a 50-gallon fish tank at the school’s entrance.

“We completely filled the 50-gallon tank!” Sergio wrote in a recent email. “We have moved our erasers to a glass case to display the 127,000 that we have collected so far!” The case is next to the library.


“We have slowed down with collecting erasers because of COVID,” Sergio continued. “Last year we were able to have a school dance which raised money for our project. This year, we have been creative, and had an eraser drive where students brought in as many erasers as they could, and we also had a hat day to raise money to buy erasers!”

Sergio said, “Our school has collected over 5,000 erasers this year so far. It is so helpful to get outside donations from people in the state of Maine and outside. It not only boosts the students’ confidence with how our project is reaching others, but it is very exciting for them to open the mail and see where the donations are from!”

The number of students involved has grown, but because of COVID-19, it has been harder to meet as a group, Sergio wrote.

A display case at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay shows notes and letters of support for students’ Erase Hate, Write Tolerance project to remember Holocaust victims. The bottom of the case holds 127,000 pencil erasers collected so far toward their six million goal. Submitted photo

“We just became allowed to meet as a group after school due to COVID, and using a hybrid model,” Sergio said. “In a normal year, the seventh- and eighth-graders will come to our group and classroom to explain to the new students what the project is, and try to get them to join in.”

The students are trying to get the word out to the state of Maine, and farther, if possible since that is where most donations occur.

Sergio said students have researched Holocaust museums or memorials.


“We reached out to the museum to tell them about starting our project, and sent paper clips,” she said. “They returned a package with erasers, and a wonderful card thanking us for continuing to share empathy and passion for this topic. Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame has also sent us a card with a donation of erasers!”

Sergio said, “This project is important to us because we have been dedicated and working on this project for three years, and we want to represent the lives that were lost. We have been working on educating others about the Holocaust, what happened, and to have empathy and understanding of diversity.

“We have learned that it takes a lot of work, it’s not just going to happen in a day, you have to stay dedicated and to never give up,” she said. “We also have learned that one small project can have a large impact on others in our community and even outside of our community.

“When we first started the project we didn’t realize the enormity of how many erasers we would collect, and how many we would still need. Six million is a huge number, and that is how many lives we are trying to set to rest and represent.”

Students are hoping that people will spread the word and help them reach their goal.

“Any donation helps so much!” Sergio wrote.

Erasers, monetary donations, cards and letters may be sent to Spruce Mountain Middle School, 23 Community Drive, Jay, ME 04239, “Attention Eraser Project.”

“Each letter we get is posted on our memorial wall to show how far our project has reached,” Sergio said.

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