If you’ve ever asked a 10 or 11 year old to keep something exciting a secret, imagine trying to stop a classroom full of 22 fifth graders from “spilling the bean.”
Somehow, Harmony Elementary teacher Michelle Hubbert has accomplished this feat in the past two months.
“I tried to get them to focus on keeping a good secret, like a birthday present,” Hubbert told the Bellingham Herald. “But it wasn’t easy. They were so excited.
And with a new release of the Mount Baker School District and the National Park Service On Tuesday, November 30, Hubbert and his fifth graders were finally allowed to reveal their secret to parents and the rest of Whatcom County.
And that’s a good idea – students recently used their artistic abilities and research into the cultural diversity around the state to create ornaments for the National Christmas tree 2021 display in President’s Park in front of the White House in Washington DC
Harmony’s fifth-graders are the only classroom in Washington State to have the opportunity this year, and are one of 58 schools across the country and around the world to design ornaments to display on the Ellipse at President’s Park, the statement said.
The ornaments will be showcased at the “Celebrating America” exhibit, which airs at 8 p.m. Sunday, December 5 on CBS.
“They’re all excited to watch and they want to know how featured their tree will be during the show,” Hubbert said. “This is such an exciting opportunity for them.”
National Christmas Tree Exhibition
Ornaments made by Harmony students will be displayed on their own tree in President’s Park along with 57 other trees from other schools and the National Christmas Tree, the statement said. The trees and their ornaments will be on view in Washington DC from Saturday December 4 to January 1, 2022.
National Christmas tree lighting began in 1923, after a letter to the District of Columbia Public Schools White House proposed that a decorated tree be placed on the South Lawn. On Christmas Eve that year, President Calvin Coolidge pressed a button to light the nation’s first Christmas tree, a 48-foot balsam fir donated by Middlebury College in Vermont.
Since 1973, the National Christmas Tree has been a living tree planted by the National Park Service that showcases one of the country’s 423 national parks, the statement said. This year, the tree will be a 27-foot white fir from Middleburg, Pa., And it was first lit Thursday, December 2, during the 99th National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Each year, students representing every state, territory and District of Columbia in the United States create ornaments to symbolize the history, heritage and culture of the regions they inhabit as part of the America in party, ”according to the National Tree website.
The 58 trees with student ornaments will surround the national Christmas tree and will be showcased on Sunday. Some of the ornaments are already exhibited on the President’s Park Facebook page.
Showing Washington’s Diversity
Towards the start of the school year, the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Education asked classes who would be willing to represent the state and design ornaments to submit why they were interested in being considered. .
“It was a perfect solution for us, as our social studies focus on the cultural diversity and value of Native American communities in Washington,” said Hubbert.
At the end of September, Hubbert learned that his class had been selected.
Soon after, she and her class began to brainstorm ideas to include on the ornaments to show the diversity of culture within the state. Some of their ideas included:
▪ The importance of Native American tribes in the state.
▪ Agriculture, including berries and apples.
▪ Orcas and salmon.
▪ Conifers and mountains.
“We wanted to include pieces that represented the east and west of the state,” Hubbert said. “It was really great to watch the kids go into computer research. They looked at the photos and added things to the list.
“It was hard to pin down, because Washington is so diverse.”
The opportunity of a lifetime
With 22 students and a teacher in the classroom, they were limited in the number of ornaments they could submit.
But Hubbert said the students did a good job representing different parts of what makes Washington state so special. On one ornament, a student drew the shape of the state, then labeled each section where Native American tribes came from, Hubbert said.
“They learned how diverse our state is,” Hubbert said. “They couldn’t just focus on Whatcom County and what we knew near us. That’s what we focused on during the brainstorming, and they learned how diverse and different we have from east to west, how many cultures there are, and how different we are from other states.
They also learned something about each other. Hubbert said one student let his “artistic talent shine” by giving an eagle for an ornament a show of hands, leaving his classmates and Hubbert stunned.
In total, Hubbert estimated that the class spent around 20 hours working on the project, from researching to designing the raw and final versions. The artwork was then scanned and sent as a PDF to the National Park Service by the Oct. 17 deadline so the ornaments could be prepared in time for this weekend’s celebration.
Hubbert said she was not aware of any of the families of Harmony’s students planning to travel to Washington DC to see the tree on display, but through social media she was able to contact a friend in the area who plans to go to President’s Park to take pictures of the tree for the class.
“I loved that it taught them how diverse our state is,” said Hubbert. “I also like that they are very proud of this project, and I am very proud of the work they have accomplished. It was really a once in a lifetime opportunity for them, and I think they made the most of it.