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Tuesday, April 23, 2024
HomeNewsLocal news@School: Students Deck the Garden with Holiday Glitz

@School: Students Deck the Garden with Holiday Glitz

Flamboyant tree seed pods, called shak-shaks, formed the raw material for ornaments. (Photo by Diane Holmberg)Reviving a tradition, St. Thomas students have once again gift wrapped Emancipation Garden in downtown Charlotte Amalie.

Antilles School students and teachers were in the garden last week, hanging handmade baubles, balls, stars and snowflakes from the trees, setting the stage for the Challenge of Carols that will take place at dawn Christmas morning.

Sponsored by Emancipation Garden Christmas Card Inc., the challenge is in its 39th year. Chief organizer Glen “Kwabena” Davis said a Christmas tree committee used to work with the Cultural Education Division of the Department of Education each year to coordinate participation of students in public and private schools in creating ornaments and decorating the trees in the Garden.

The committee has been inactive for a few years and the decorating project has been dormant. The attempt to revive it this year got started late, he said, with the result that most schools were not able to contribute. Next year, he promised, the call for ornaments will go out earlier.

Skye Perkins, Jazzmin Gardner, Kayla Smith, Christina Balboa and Dimitri Neiboer put the finishing touches on stars. (Photo by Diane Holmberg)“It was kind of crazy. It was last minute,” said Antilles art teacher Diane Holmberg. “The sixth grade rallied, and we put it together …A select group of kids who were finished with their other projects took it on.”

Leslie Penther’s students in the Early Learning Center, that is, pre-kindergarten and kindergarten three- to six-year-olds, also responded.

In the past, Holmberg has worked with younger students, guiding them to craft such things as reindeer from cork and angels from parts of coconut trees. She likes to have them use materials found in nature or those that are recycled.

Step One in this year’s process was the collection of shak-shaks. The campus is dotted with flamboyant trees, so the long, slightly sickle-shaped pods were abundant. They formed the basis of the star-shaped objects.

Noting the schools colors are blue and white, Holmberg said the stars were painted in that combination. There already was some paint on hand, as well as a large supply of seashells for embellishment. The shells are from nature, though not from V.I. beaches. Holmberg said they were donated some time ago to the art department by a downtown shop.

Antilles students get a little help as they decorate trees in Emancipation Garden. (Photo by Diane Holmberg)Once the stars were painted, some in solids and others sporting various designs, it was time for the glitz. You can’t have too much glitter for the holidays, and there were even a few rhinestones.

“The kids were excited,” about the project, Holmberg said, adding that it lifted her mood, too.

“I was a Grinch, and now I’m in the spirit,” she said.

Davis said he favors reaching out to youth groups as well as to schools to create ornaments. In fact, the Methodist Training Outreach organization decorated a tree this year.

“We weren’t turning anyone down, as long as there are youth involved,” he said.

In the future, he said, he’d also like to expand the project “so they can begin to produce some marketable items.” If young people are able to sell their handicraft, he believes that will be an incentive to be more creative.

Some of that creativity is on display in the garden now, and will be through the holidays. 

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