Arizona K-12 students were chosen to adorn the 85-foot blue spruce Capitol Christmas Tree, also known as The People's Tree, in Washington, D.C.
Tessa Murdock carefully used a hot wire cutter Monday to cut out her hand-drawn turtle from Styrofoam.
The sixth-grader from Gilbert's Edu-Prize charter school then painted her creation tan, dark brown and gray, and added a wire hanger to turn the turtle into an ornament.
"I really like art," said Tessa, 11, who also made a green foam cactus and silver tin hummingbird ornament. "I think it's kind of cool it's going to be on President Obama's Christmas tree."
Arizona K-12 students were chosen to adorn the 85-foot blue spruce Capitol Christmas Tree, also known as The People's Tree, in Washington, D.C. Their 5,000 handmade ornaments will depict the theme of the project, "Arizona's Gift from the Grand Canyon State."
The spruce tree was selected from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, according to the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.
An additional 1,000 handcrafted ornaments are also being made for 80 companion trees that will be displayed in federal offices and buildings throughout the Capitol Complex.
Patty Leonard's tuition-based, after-school art class at Gilbert's Pioneer and Burk elementary schools draws students from surrounding schools, including Edu-Prize. The kindergarten to sixth-grade students are making dozens of ornaments for the Capitol Christmas Tree project.
"I think it's important to nurture their imagination and their problem-solving skills," Leonard said. "They need to learn to fix things without an eraser. These are life skills they'll need."
The ornaments need to be between 9 and 12 inches tall, durable and weatherproof to withstand at least three weeks of Washington winter weather, and cannot reflect a religious or political theme.
Leonard's students are making several ornament designs, including glittery foam cactuses and smiling suns, and copper and silver tin, petroglyph-inspired cowboy boots, geckos and howling coyotes.
"Your ornaments will be up there representing Arizona," Leonard reminded her students Monday. "We want the best representation. Neatness counts."
The ornaments are being made from donated and found materials from school storage and Treasures for Teachers in Tempe, which offers donated materials to classroom teachers for a small fee. The foam was donated by Ikea, and the wire hangers were pulled from spiral notebooks, Leonard said.
"I thought this was just a fun thing to do," Leonard said. "The kids are having a blast."
Pioneer third-grader Alex Aragon-Sierra painted white stars and a happy face on his foam green cactus. On the back, he painted a tongue sticking out of the mouth in his happy face.
"I like it because I wanted to make stars because it stands for the United States flag, and I wanted to make it happy and funny," said Alex, 8, wearing a "Got Art?" T-shirt, his hands covered in green paint. "It's fun because you get dirty and stuff and you can get creative."
Seventh- and eighth-grade students in Higley's Coronado and Chaparral elementary schools, as well as fourth-grade artists at Chandler's Tarwater Elementary School, are also creating ornaments for the project.
Students who submit ornaments by the Oct. 5 deadline are also eligible for a drawing to win a free trip to Washington, D.C., along with their parents and teacher, to help the Speaker of the House light the Christmas tree in early December.
For information, visit www.capitolchristmastree2009.org.