Topeka students decorate the Kansas Christmas tree in Washington, DC

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Mary Kate Berryman’s fourth graders, accompanied by Most Pure Heart of Mary, show Pastor Nathan Haverland the ornaments they designed for the Kansas Christmas tree in President’s Park in Washington, DC. Photo courtesy of the purest heart of Mar.

by Moira Cullings
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TOPEKA – Christmas came early here for the students at Most Pure Heart of Mary School.

Mary Kate Berryman’s fourth grade was selected to design ornaments for the Kansas Christmas tree in President’s Park in Washington, DC

How did you react when you heard the news?

“Very excited,” said Carrie Jo Gros, art teacher at Most Pure Heart. “The first question was, ‘Can we go to Washington?'”

The fourth graders of Most Pure Heart of Mary School all beamed when they learned they were to represent Kansas at President’s Park in Washington, DC

Although the students did not travel to Washington, DC, they had the opportunity to watch the tree lighting ceremony on television.

58 schools across the country and abroad have been selected to create ornaments for the exhibition, which will run through January 1, 2022.

Most Pure Hearts shared the honor with Leawood Middle School, and 12 ornaments from each school were selected.

“Ms. Berryman’s class was chosen for its commitment,” said Gros, “[but] also because of their size.

“Because we could only send 12, a smaller class meant a higher percentage of students could have their ornaments selected.”

Maci Arnold, left, and Kate Eaton begin drawing their ornament for the Kansas Christmas tree in Washington, DC

Students were given some tips before they got creative.

Barbara Waterman-Peters, an award-winning local artist, created a Kansas ornament for the presidential tree in 2002. She spoke to Most Pure Heart students through Zoom in September to provide them with inspiration.

Andrew Etzel of the Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks and Tourism provided research materials for the students, including a copy of Kansas Magazine.

Gros said sunflowers were abundant in student designs, as were images of the state seal and icons that represent Kansas, such as buffalo and poplar trees.

Walter’s drawing illustrates the motto of the state of Kansas. PHOTO WITH KINDNESS FROM MARY’S PURE HEART

The drawings were scanned and emailed to DC, and the National Park Service printed the pictures on large discs for volunteers to place on the tree.

Eric White, director of most Pure Heart, said that an opportunity like this “promotes Catholic education nationally”.

“Catholic schools to participate in something nationally is not just an honor – it is a privilege,” he said. “Getting selected means our schools here in Kansas are known for their excellence.”

White said it was a great lesson for the participating students too.

“You not only got the opportunity to participate in the design of the ornament,” he said, “[but] They learned geography, the artistic process, public relations and leadership while representing our school on a national level. “

Daniel Anguiano-Cedeno, left, and classmate Walter pose for a picture while they work on their ornaments. PHOTO WITH KINDNESS FROM MARY’S PURE HEART

Gros believes this is a memory that students will remember for years to come.

“I hope they have also gained an understanding of the artistic process that professional artists go through when they are hired,” she said.

“This has been an amazing trip with the students,” she continued. “It was fun to see the enthusiasm and attention to detail with which they planned their ornaments and made artistic decisions.

“They are all very proud of the work they have done – as it should be.”

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