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Current and former docents from the Children's Holocaust Museum in Whitwell, Tenn., make "bones" as part of the One Million Bones project, a national art project to raise awareness about genocide that will be installed in Washington, D.C., June 8-10. Students across all 50 states are making bones out of dough for the project. Staff photo by Rachel Bunn

WHITWELL, Tenn. - Christina Myers pinches a bit of salt dough out of a large metal bowl. She puts the dough on the counter, rolling it out into a log, then pressing small indentations into the ends.

The 15-year-old was one of 13 teens making "bones" in the tiny kitchen at the Sulpher Springs United Methodist Church in Whitwell recently.

The "bones," made out of salt, flour and water, will represent the victims of genocide as part of a national project to increase genocide awareness in the United States.

The Whitwell "bones" will be combined with those made by other students from around the nation as part of a two-day art project, the One Million Bones project, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., beginning June 8.

"I feel like I'm really doing something to help these people who lost their lives for no good reason," Myers said, as she rolls the dough.

The students from Whitwell Middle and Whitwell High School were brought together by Linda Hooper, the former Whitwell Middle School principal who helped begin the Paper Clip Project, a project to collect 6 million paper clips to remember those killed during the Holocaust.

The Paper Clip Project has morphed into the Children's Holocaust Museum, and each year Hooper looks for a project for students involved with the museum.

"I think that the bottom line is: You let kids know that they are important," Hooper said. "You invite them to come make sure they are part of something that's bigger than themselves."

Hooper found the One Million Bones project and volunteered Whitwell to make "bones" that will represent Tennessee's contribution to the larger project.

Whitwell students were tasked with making 5,000 "bones." Hooper expected to have about 20,000.

"They wanted to make more, because they wanted to be sure that there really were 1 million 'bones,'" she said.

The teens are current or former docents at the Children's Holocaust Museum who donated their time and the materials to make the "bones."

As the teens worked, they joked with one another, sometimes throwing dough -- until Hooper put a stop to it -- and taking liberties with the shape of the "bones."

By the time the final batches went into the oven, curly Q's, spirals and even a turtle had joined the pile of more traditionally shaped "bones."

Despite the fun, light-hearted feel the process may have had, students took what they were doing seriously.

"It's a good cause," said Dalton Slatton, 15, as he mixed a batch of dough with his hands. "A complete annihilation of certain races, gender or religions -- it's not right."

The Paper Clip Project was founded by students in 1998, and its continuation as the Children's Holocaust Museum is largely thanks to students, Hooper said.

Every student docent must apply for the program and complete certain requirements, including a test on the Holocaust.

Carlea Defur, 13, said the students making "bones" had heard about the museum their whole lives and already were interested in educating the public about genocide to prevent it from happening in the future.

Slatton shares Defur's opinion on genocide education, and he said that participating in the One Million Bones project is a way to get the public's attention.

"People don't do much about it; it kind of gets swept under the rug," Slatton said. "These people [Holocaust survivors], they're dying. They need a voice. We should be that voice."