By Dale Woodard on December 3, 2020.
Students at Gilbert Paterson Middle School are belting out their own version of “Oh, Christmas Trees.”
That’s trees – plural.
As the middle school heads into the holiday season with visions of giving back to the public in a trying year dancing in their heads, they do so with 25 trees draped top to bottom with all sorts of creative themes which will be donated to the community.
One of those trees — decked out in tribute to the frontline workers who have served tirelessly in a year rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic — will take up shop in the front window of the downtown Pharmasave Draffins.
In fact, it was the pandemic that was the seed for the Paterson Christmas tree idea.
“With the school year being unique due to COVID-19 we can’t run our regular auction,” said Gilbert Paterson teacher Shelly David, who teaches two Grade 6 classes. “We’ve been running what we’re calling activity classes in the classes, and as a grade level group we’ll share the planning of those activities.”
It was originally an activity planned for the Grade 6 students.
“One thing led to another and when I found out I could get a Christmas tree for a pretty decent price I thought maybe the whole grade level could do Christmas trees,” said David. “Then I approached administration (Catherine Thorsen) to get the OK and asked how they would feel if I sent it out to teachers and if they would be willing to do this as a pre-Christmas activity.
Thorsen liked the idea and relayed it to Paterson principal Darryl Christiansen, who suggested every grade level partake in the Christmas project.
“Now I’ve got 25 trees,” said David. “I’m sort of overseeing the whole thing, but the individual classroom teachers who are teaching the activities to the grade level, those are the ones who are running it in the classroom.”
Each class has a four-foot tree, said David.
“We brought them back to the school and the teachers had the conversation with their groups about the theme. Once they figured out the theme they went from there and made the ornaments.”
The deal was the students had to hand-make the decorations for the trees, said David.
“So each class has a different theme and are crafting decorations around that.”
Different ideas include a cartoon theme and cartoon strip ornaments and a rustic winter theme with tree cookie snowmen, along with snowballs.
Other classes went the North Pole and “Shrek” route, while another class utilized the Among Us app, a popular game.
“One of the classes had Christmas Is Among Us, so they’re crafting the players in the game out of salt clay and onto foam balls to look like planets,” said David. “So they’ll string those planets together and they have a tree-topper of one of the Among Us people.”
The objective for the tribute tree for frontline workers — done by the Grade 7 classes — was to get it to a high-traffic area, said David.
“The intention is this tree will be a tribute and a thank you to the ongoing efforts of everybody on the front line fighting through this thing and even working through shutdowns. The kids wanted that one to go where it could be it could be seen by as many people as possible.”
The Christmas tree initiative will also double as a fundraiser.
“We had put the call out for donations to help assist with the cost the supplies to craft all of the trees,” said David. “We thought if there are any proceeds left over those would be donated to some charities.”
The Gilbert Paterson counselling department, Interfaith Food Bank, Woods Homes, an organization that supports youth, are among the selected charities as well as the YWCA, which has the Virtual Stockings of Hope.
David said the dedication and support of the Paterson staff and students has been amazing.
“I really thought this could be one more thing being added to the plate of a group of people who are already working hard to make each day happen,” she said. “But they’ve truly grabbed this idea and run with it.
“It’s been nothing but positive feedback from the staff. I see the excitement going on. Many of them are playing Christmas carols and they’re crafting things. It’s just a chance for the kids to remember that, yes, we have all these restrictions on us, but there are other ways to give back and still have the cheer part of Christmas and the sharing and the giving.”
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