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Sticks and stones, paint and light bulbs

Godwin Heights – A light bulb is transformed into a snowman. Sticks and holly from the backyard become a snowflake. A plastic bottle morphs into a snowglobe.

These were just some of the entries for Godwin Heights Middle School’s Natural Christmas Tree Decoration contest. Hosted by the school’s environmental club, The Green Club, students were encouraged to create ornaments using natural materials and to recycle or reuse items in their homes.

Sixth-grader Alivia Tanjarion with her two ornaments

“I was looking for something that would be fun and get the students involved,” said sixth-grade math teacher William Mull, The Green Club advisor. 

Like many of the school’s clubs and extracurricular activities, it has been “a crazy year” for The Green Club, Mull said. The pandemic prevented the club from having its annual camping trip last spring. The group has only been able to meet a few times in-person this fall due to the district starting with and then moving back to virtual instruction.

A member of several environmental education groups, Mull searched for an environmental project students could do at home and The Natural Christmas Tree Decoration contest was a perfect fit.

Mull said he presented the idea to The Green Club members and they suggested opening the contest up to the entire school.

“I just thought it was a good idea, not just for the club, but to include everybody,” said sixth-grader Liliana Gunderson. 

Sixth-grader Liliana Gunderson turned a lightbulb into a snowman

No Further Than the Backyard

Liliana first made an ornament with pine tree branches and holly. She said she was amazed at how the red holly berries made the ornament just pop with color. She had so much fun, she went out and gathered some twigs and grapevines and created a snowflake ornament too. 

“I learned that you can find some really neat supplies just by going into your own backyard and then make something that is really colorful and unique with it,” she said.

For seventh-grader Amilee Zepeda, a plastic bottle became a snowglobe complete with a pinecone Christmas tree, a gift made from styrofoam and cotton balls for snow. Amilee also used old Christmas lights that were about to head to the trash.

“I was talking to my dad about it and he said he had this amazing idea for a light bulb,” said sixth-grader Alivia Tanjarion. Alivia painted the bulb white and, after the paint dried, added details to create a snowman. 

One of sixth-grader Alivia Tanjarion’s ornaments is a wreath

“The project taught me a lot of things such as the importance of including others and also time management,” Alivia said, adding that at first she thought she had plenty of time to create an ornament but then discovered how much her time already was committed to school work and other tasks.

“You suddenly realize you have so many things to do and you just have to get through it,” she said.

A Gift for a Loved One

Mull will join several other middle school teachers in voting for the winners, who will receive gift cards. The real winners, though, may be family members who get these one-of-a-kind treasures, he said.

“It provided the students with the opportunity to learn that they don’t have to go out and spend a lot of money but can just use items from around their home,” he said. “It gave them the opportunity to create and, in the end, have a gift for mom when they were done.”

Seventh-grader Amilee Zepeda used a plastic bottle and discarded lights to create a snowglobe
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Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma
Joanne Bailey-Boorsma covers Kent ISD and Godwin Heights. She was born in the Detroit area but grew up in Brighton where she attended Hartland Public Schools. The salutatorian for the Class of 1985, she changed her colors from blue and maize to green and white by attending Michigan State University, where she majored in journalism and minored in photography and German. She expanded her color palette to include orange and black as both her daughters graduated from Byron Center Public Schools; maroon and white for Aquinas College where her daughter studies nursing and also brought back blue and maize for Grand Rapids Community College where her youngest daughter currently is studying music. Read Joanne's full bio

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