Sibling Assignment #112: Old School Christmas Art Projects

It was my time to give the Sibling Assignment.  "Write a memory about Christmas related to an experience at school." ISilver Valley Girl's wonderful recollection of the Sunnyside Sixth Grade Christmas program is here and Raymond Pert's will be here soon.

When I think about Christmas as a child I have vivid memories about the holiday art projects we created in December. Friday afternoon after recess was always that sacred time for art at Sunnyside School.  Often the projects in December were used to decorate a tree, display in the hall or  lunchroom, plus some to take home as a gift for parents. I don't know how my elementary teachers managed to plan instruction along with the elaborate projects they organized during December. I wonder if art was extended beyond that hour on Friday in December? Retreating into my childhood memories today I remembered many projects, but it sometimes got a bit fuzzy as to what grade each project occurred. All I know is Christmastime during grade school was one big, happy memory of poster paint, glitter, crepe paper, and gold spray paint.

In second grade Mrs. Meyer introduced me to paper mache. She used an old hot plate to heat up the glue mixture we used and there were piles of newspaper strips as we covered ballons with the coating for an ornament. These ornaments were big! I am sure we found a place for mine on the tree, but in my child mind it was big.

I remember the pleasure of getting to choose paint and glitter to adorn on the ornament after it set.  After that year I don't know if I ever did much more paper mache, but I sure remember that ornament.

I wish I could remember the year we did the crepe paper Christmas trees. I am thinking it was either fourth or sixth grade, but maybe some of my Sunnyside classmates will have to fill me in. I know my tree is still at my mom's house. The trees were created by taking pieces of green crepe paper, rolling them into little balls and pasting them all together to make a tree on construction paper. We used yellow balls for the lights, then picked other colors for the ornaments. What sticks in my mind was the glue (no pun intended). If you used too much the crepe paper turned your fingers a bright green. I really must have loved this project because I did it with my own students when I began teaching. What I also remember is how long the project took. I think after too many green hands and colors of crepe paper running together, I switched to using white the next year and creating snowmen.

Another Christmas ornament project I remember seemed almost magical. We made these as a gift for our parents.  The teacher had us find old Christmas card pictures we liked. Then we rubbed Wesson oil on the card picture which made it see-through. Next we glued macaroni on gold canning rings, spraying them gold. We cut the picture to fit the circle inside and put a string to hang it on the tree. These were very beautiful. When the picture was up against a Christmas light, it seemed to glow. I may have to make these again now that I remember how beautiful they were. Mom liked mine so much she made them the next year with her students. I don't know what happened to that ornament. Maybe I will have to check the Christmas archives when I am home this year.

With the pressure of high stakes testing and  leaving no child behind today many projects like these memorable ones I remembered have gone away. My school day as a child wasn't any longer and I managed to learn to read, figure out math, write with neat penmanship, and understand concepts in science and social studies. The teacher had time to read a book after lunch each day, introduce us to poetry, and also provide art experiences. I believe in rigor in my classroom. I want all my students to read, write, and communicate effectively, but if I still had an elementary classroom I would have to figure out how to fit in canning ring or paper mache ornament making. Maybe we would have to get environmentally safe spray paint or masks would have to be worn in class.  The safety inspectors wouldn't let me heat up the glue mixture for paper mache on the counter and probably the crepe paper has something toxic in the dye. 

I don't care. I love old school style art projects. Of course... I still wish everyone a Merry Christmas also!

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