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Published: Thursday, 12/20/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

5th-grade project aims to draw solace for fellow elementary students in Newtown, Conn.

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Lucas Gilford admires his handiwork Wednesday as he and other students in Mary Riley’s fifth-grade class at Edgewater Elementary make paper snowflakes. The snowflakes will be hung at Chalk Hill, an elementary school near Newtown, Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary students will start to attend Chalk Hill in January. Lucas Gilford admires his handiwork Wednesday as he and other students in Mary Riley’s fifth-grade class at Edgewater Elementary make paper snowflakes. The snowflakes will be hung at Chalk Hill, an elementary school near Newtown, Conn. Sandy Hook Elementary students will start to attend Chalk Hill in January.
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Ask a child to help, and often enough, he or she will.

Fifth graders at Edgewater Elementary took scissors to paper Wednesday, cutting out snowflakes and planning a surprise for strangers. The paper snowflakes are bound for Connecticut, to help welcome a group of students into a new school.

The Edgewater students didn’t need to know the children who will see their artwork. It was enough to know that others would have a little more joy around Christmas. “It makes me feel happy and thankful,” Kevin Reynolds said of the project.

Hallie Mitchell, seated next to Kevin, chimed in. “Happy for the kids,” she said.

Edgewater students have joined children in schools across the country by making paper snowflakes for the students of Sandy Hook Elementary, the Newtown, Conn., school where a gunman on Friday killed 26 people, including 20 children. When Sandy Hook students return after winter break, they won’t go back to their old school. They’ll go to Chalk Hill, a school in a neighboring town.

It will be a strange place for them, in a strange time. The snowflakes will be hung throughout the school, creating a sort of “winter wonderland” for the children, a silent message of support from thousands of students they have never met.

The Connecticut PTSA has led the effort nationally, at the request of the Sandy Hook Parent Teacher Association. In Toledo, the snowflake drive is led by Melody Basta, a special education teacher at Edgewater Elementary, whose cousin, Sue Zimmerman, works for the Newtown Public School District.

The cousins have been in contact through Facebook since the shooting. Ms. Basta asked her cousin if she could do anything to help.

As a mother and a elementary school teacher, Ms. Basta said the mass shooting in Sandy Hook make her sick to her stomach. She said she hoped the snowflakes would give the students a bit of solace as they returned to school.

She knows it’s only a small gesture.

“If a snowflake is all that's needed to do that," Ms. Basta said, "I'll make a million snowflakes."

Taylor Zay cuts out a snowflake as she and other students in Mary Riley's fifth grade class at Edgewater Elementary make snowflakes for the Blizzards of Blessings campaign. Taylor Zay cuts out a snowflake as she and other students in Mary Riley's fifth grade class at Edgewater Elementary make snowflakes for the Blizzards of Blessings campaign.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo

In Toledo Public Schools, Burroughs, Sherman, Ottawa River, and Riverside have joined Edgewater in the snowflake drive. Similar efforts are under way in other districts. The students wrote their names, their schools, and their hometowns on the snowflakes, so the Newtown students know that kids across the country sent them.

The Edgewater fifth graders were more than happy to pitch in. Making snowflakes is cool, and many could sympathize with the fear of walking into a new building. Ian Salyers, 10, said he was making snowflakes so that kids wouldn’t get mad that they didn’t like their new school.

Without knowing it, the fifth graders are there to help the students from Sandy Hook. Their teachers didn’t tell them that the snowflakes they made are for those children. Instead, the teachers just told them their gifts were for students who were going to a new school, and that the snowflakes would help welcome them to the building.

On the verge of middle school, the fifth graders are old enough to know what happened in Newtown, but maybe not quite old enough to really comprehend the tragedy. Most, when asked, simply said they felt sad for the kids and their parents.

When Courtney Marks, 11, learned about the shooting from the news, she, too, felt sad. She thought about her nephew, who is in kindergarten.

“If he ever got hurt,” she said, “I would be there to help.”

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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