Kearns students create ornaments for National Christmas tree
Beehive state • Students' work reflected Utah's history and quirks.
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Kearns • Most student artwork made in class doesn't get recognized, but Christmas ornaments made by Kearns High School students played a big part in a national celebration.

Students at Kearns had the opportunity to represent their school and the state of Utah by creating ornaments for the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C. All 50 states were represented in the lighting ceremony at the nation's capital on Dec. 6.

Noemi V. Hernandez-Balcazar is the art teacher at Kearns responsible for getting students to make the ornaments.

"All of our students got involved, and this project was a real honor," Hernandez-Balcazar said. "Students came up with their own ideas to represent Utah, everything from KFC [Kentucky Fried Chicken] to Arches National Park, and it took a lot of research on their part."

The 3-D art ornaments were made out of an array of materials — everything from papier-mâché and clay to grains and even dirt from behind the school.

Each student came up with his or her own themed ornament. Eleventh-grade student Darnell Griffith created an ornament with a train carrying coal that give a small glimpse into the history of Utah.

"It is something that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to make something to be displayed nationally," Darnell said.

Through their research, students like Gloria Mendoza learned new information about the state of Utah.

"There was a lot of stuff I didn't know about the state, like that the state flower is the sego lily," said Gloria, who based her ornament on the state flower. "I used clay, and it took three different times to get it right, but I do feel accomplished and lucky that our school was chosen."

Art students at Kearns weren't the only ones participating in the ornaments. The AP English class of Shannon Coon also took part by writing poems about the state to insert into the ornaments.

"I don't think the students realized at first how important the project was of writing these poems," Coon said.

Coon also had the opportunity to attend the lighting ceremony in Washington, D.C., and she was impressed that Kearns was one of the few public schools representing a state; many other states were represented by art-specific schools. AP English senior Spencer Clafin found it challenging to write poetry about the state of Utah.

"It was interesting and hard to write a 35-word poem about hiking and topics about Utah," Spencer said. "I was able to draw upon my experience of hiking at Arches."

Kearns Principal Maile Loo found out about the project as the students were close to finishing their ornaments, but that didn't stop her from being impressed with the work they had completed.

"This should be something that helps them realize how important their citizenship in this country is," Loo said. "I am proud of them that they were willing to represent their school and their family by making these ornaments."

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