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Carroll art students' ornaments displayed on trees in Maryland State House

In their fourth-grade art class, 35 Eldersburg Elementary students created ornaments for the Maryland State House Holiday Tree. Here, Ben DeShong, left, and Rachael Sutton display the ornaments they made.
In their fourth-grade art class, 35 Eldersburg Elementary students created ornaments for the Maryland State House Holiday Tree. Here, Ben DeShong, left, and Rachael Sutton display the ornaments they made. (Submitted photo)

Carroll County is well-represented on the Christmas trees inside the Maryland State House in Annapolis, with 48 ornaments on display.

In 1995, then-First Lady of Maryland Frances Hughes Glendening started a tradition of having school children from across the state make decorations for the holiday trees at the Government House in Annapolis, the official residence of the governor's family. In the early years, only middle and high school students were asked to create ornaments. Now in its 20th year, the tradition has changed somewhat. The decorations now include those made by elementary school students, and the display has moved a short distance to the State House.

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Ornaments sent from three Carroll schools include 35 from fourth-graders at Eldersburg Elementary School, one from a seventh-grader at Sykesville Middle School, and twelve from the Art Club at North Carroll High School, according to coordinator Karen Trageser, art teacher at North Carroll High.

Each year, the students are given a theme for the decorations. The students designed the 2014 ornaments to exemplify "Oh Say Can You See" Trees, a celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner."

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Program organizers encouraged students to use recycled materials to create their ornaments.

"My kids used discarded plastic pieces to create ornaments," Trageser said. "One of them did a firecracker that makes noise when you shake it, one kid made a rocket, some kids did flags. One girl built a lighthouse out of bottle caps."

Amy Slagle, art teacher at Eldersburg Elementary, turned the ornaments into a class project for her fourth-grade students.

"We did two classes working on it," she said. "I do a lot with recycling here anyway, and we needed something small that the students could paint on. I had a lot of frozen juice can lids."Slagle's students used acrylic paints to put paintings or writings on the lids to reflect the patriotic theme. They continued the recycling effort by using leftover parts of pipe cleaners to make the ornament hangers.

Jack Armstrong, 12, was the only Sykesville Middle School student in teacher Diana Duda's art classes to tackle the project. He made an ornament in a shadowbox.

"I found out about it from my art teacher," Armstrong said. "When I heard it was about the War of 1812, I put in the flag, Francis Scott Key, and the battle at Fort McHenry. I tried to make it so that it was 3-D, and my teacher helped me figure out to put it in plastic wrap."

The ornament project played to Armstrong's design strengths, since he's been doing art since he was about 4-years old.

"I like building art, because I have a real engineering side," he said.

The State House tree for 2014 is actually a grouping of six medium to large trees, making it easier for students to find their ornaments. Previously, the State House had a gigantic tree, which made it much harder for kids to identify their own works.

The students who created ornaments were invited to a special reception at the State House on Dec. 13 to see their artworks on display. According to Slagle, quite a few kids from Eldersburg Elementary went to the reception.

Armstrong attended the reception, as well.

"I thought it was really cool seeing it in a place that was important to Maryland," he said.

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He was also surprised that he got a chance to meet Gov. Martin O'Malley, who spoke at the event.

"It was something I didn't expect," Armstrong said. "I was shocked, when we got to actually take a picture with him."

IF YOU GO

The Maryland State House, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, is open to visitors from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, except for Christmas Day and New Year's Day. The decorations and holiday trees will be on display at the Maryland State House through Dec. 31.

Admission is free. Adults will need to present a photo ID, and purses and backpacks will be searched, when visitors enter the building.

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