Westminster pupils take flag project in hand


November 26, 2001|By Lisa Breslin | Lisa Breslin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WESTMINSTER Elementary School pupils have offered hundreds of helping hands to local firefighters and the American Red Cross.

As they filed into art classes during the past few weeks, pupils pressed their hands into paint and then onto a 6-foot-by-14-foot canvas. By the time the final handprints are collected (from seven pupils who were absent), 544 prints will form an American flag.

This unique creation was part of a schoolwide tribute to patriotism. Pupils also sang patriotic songs, signed oversized thank-you cards and donated coins to local firefighters.

Earlier in the year, Westminster Elementary pupils raised more than $1,000 for the American Red Cross through a "Fun Run."

"When something as tragic as the events on Sept. 11 happen, it is difficult to understand the needs of kindergarten through fifth-grade students because they are all coming to school with a different level of understanding," said Valerie Mehl, a PTO board member.

Each day pupils filed by a showcase in the lobby, created by Mehl and other volunteers. If the flags, firetruck model or copies of the U.S. Constitution didn't inspire pupils to stop and look, three bears - Panda (the school's mascot), Stars and Stripes, and Peace Bear - did.

Each morning and afternoon, pupils also could push a button on a laptop computer and watch a slide show featuring photos of local firefighters at work. Mehl's 13-year-old son, Eddie, who attends West Middle School, created the show.

"We approached this from a child's perspective," said Barbara Peterson, the school's PTO president. "The handprint flag, the songs and the other projects helped students personalize their support for firefighters and for America. Everyone has been enthusiastic."

Peterson's husband, Jim, is stretching and framing the handprint flag so it will be ready for unveiling at the school's holiday concert and PTO meeting Dec. 10.

Spirit project

A simple project for the annual Festival of Wreaths has blossomed into works of art and a unique form of expression for pupils and teachers at the Gateway School. They are making wire people - some with colorful beads and colorful wires, others purposefully somber, sad and gray.

The first wire people that pupils and teachers created were anchored on a wreath. Each wreath symbolizes the changes that at-risk pupils often go through.

"The figures on the first wreath are wrapped from head to toe in wire. They are bound, sad and angry," said Cheryl Held, a crisis intervention counselor at Gateway.

"There are tin hearts on each wreath that represent the people who invest their time and talents with these kids," Held said. "And along the twisted birch branches, wired into the wreaths are pieces of a dream catcher, and tiny butterflies at each developmental stage."

As the wreath series pro- gresses, the wire people appear less forlorn. Their heads no longer droop and, ultimately, they are decorated with bright beads. The wire figures at the beginning of the series hold wooden signs with words such as "sad," "lonely" and "abused." The last wire child holds a wooden sign with the word "hope."

"It's a lot of work," said Christopher Schreiner, an 11th-grader at Gateway. "I've made 20 wire people and I'm working on a dream-catcher now. It's a great way to pass the time."

The wreaths will be featured at Carroll County Arts Council's annual Festival of Wreaths, tomorrow through Saturday at Winchester Exchange Building on East Main Street in Westminster. The school also is selling wire people expressing a variety of moods for $8.

Information: 410-751-3691.

Living treasure

Mandi Stevens, a third-grader at Sandymount Elementary School and the daughter of Debbie and Greg Stevens, called to honor Andy Yount, the guidance counselor at her school.

"Mr. Yount is kind, caring, respectful and very thoughtful," Mandi said. "My sister Emily loves him, too. He comes to see me dance at my recitals. Last year, he put together a whole day of outdoor activities, kind of like the Olympics, and it was lots of fun."

Brighten the day of someone who has made a positive difference in your life. Send a name and specific reasons why someone is your living treasure to: Lisa Breslin, 35 Ridge Road, Westminster 21157.

Lisa Breslin's Central Carroll neighborhood column appears each Monday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

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