Jessica Lilly Published

Lewis County Middle Schoolers Make Ornaments for National Christmas Tree Display


Middle schoolers from Lewis County, West Virginia designed Christmas tree ornaments that are included in the National Christmas Tree display in Washington D.C. It’s part of the America Celebrates annual ornament program, which selects a classroom from each U.S. state and territory to design decorations representing their region.

This is the second year that students from Robert L. Bland Middle school were selected to submit ornaments. Their designs represent West Virginia, with depictions of the New River Gorge, cardinals, rhododendrons and much more state emblems.

Emily Gum WV Ornament.jpg

Ornament design by Emily Gum in 2020

The ornaments are hanging on a tree designated for West Virginia. There are 55 other trees representing each state and territory. The trees all surround the National Christmas Tree in President’s Park.

Joseph Merrifield, the art teacher at Robert L. Bland Middle School, says it’s a big deal for his art students to have their work displayed nationally.

“The leaders of the free world walk through President’s Park,” Merrifield said. “It’s a way to get their work out there. That’s the whole object in my opinion, is to let the kids express themselves and let the world see it.”

Creating and submitting the ornaments looked different this year because of the pandemic and remote learning. Last year, Merrifield’s students were given two clear, acrylic halves to design and create. The discs were then shipped back to DC, where they were assembled into ornaments. This year, designs were submitted digitally and then created into ornaments onsite. Merrifield says students were given a template and could use any medium to create a design.

Hope Dever WV Ornament.jpg

Ornament design by Hope Dever in 2020

“As a traditional art teacher you’re so used to working with acrylics and colored pencils and crayons and those things,” Merrifield said. “Kids are starting to move more towards that digital medium. I wanted them to work towards their strengths and do things that they were comfortable with. It was really free rein on that template.”

Merrifield says that teaching middle school during a pandemic has been challenging, especially with art, as it’s such a hands-on experience. He says this national opportunity to display students’ artwork is a highlight of 2020.

“Working with students in a pandemic, it’s very hard to keep socially distant,” Merrifield said. “Anything that I could do to try to normalize that through the creative process, the better off we’re gonna be.”

Ornaments designed by students from West Virginia for the America Celebrates program will be on display in Washington throughout December.