At Howard school, creating U.S. flag turned into a hands-on experience

October 03, 2001|By Laura Dreibelbis | Laura Dreibelbis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

As Triadelphia Ridge Elementary School art teacher Deborah Bourke drove along Interstate 695 the weekend after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, American flags draped on overpasses and bridges gave her an idea.

Bourke wanted to fashion something indicating loyalty to the United States without using recent television images. So she was inspired to construct an American flag to drape on the school building for the duration of the school year.

Using a 10-by-20-foot blue tarp, about 670 pupils and 90 staff members stamped the stars and stripes with their hands using red, white and blue latex exterior house paint.

On Sept. 17, the tarp was put on the sidewalk in front of the Ellicott City school. Bourke sat the children down and explained that the handprints were symbolic of community. Bourke and a few adult helpers took one class at a time and painted one hand of each pupil, most of whom wore latex gloves. Each child then placed his or her handprint on the tarp to form the stripes.

The next day was a school holiday, so on Sept. 19 two children from each of the 24 elementary classes and two kindergartners stamped the 50 stars.

At the end of the week, the entire school and some parents gathered, said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang patriotic songs as Bourke and three other adults unfurled the flag from the roof.

"You don't get any more hands-on than that," said PTA President Kathy Rogers.

Bourke looks at the flag each time she approaches the school and is proud because it is visible to the community. It's part of the healing process, she said, to feel connected and support American life.

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