Victor school children worked on writing poems with intense visual imagery Tuesday, which is the starting point for creating 12 ornaments that will decorate a tree in President’s Park in Washington, D.C., for the 2017 America Celebrates display. 

Every year, unique ornaments are made by Americans across the county that "symbolize the history, heritage and culture of there homelands." This is the 95th year of the tradition by the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation.

Victor art teacher Jennifer Ogden said the Montana Arts Council suggested she partner with a poet from the Humanities Montana Speaker's Bureau. She also collaborated with Victor teachers for ideas.

“In the scope of Montana, there is so much and we wanted to include geography, headwaters, tribes, firefighters and maybe students who have their own fire story,” Ogden said.

Other ideas included industry, ghost towns, small-town life, bodies of water, swimming, mountains, Glacier and Yellowstone.

On Tuesday Caroline Patterson - author, poet, and director of the Missoula Writing Project - helped students from kindergarten to 12th grade write poems with strong images.

“She helped us write poems to inspire us when we make the ornaments that are an authentic reflection of what it’s like for our kids to grow up in a small town and to represent Montana,” Ogden said. “It’s from their point of view and much like a love letter from Montana.”

Every period of the day, a new pairing of younger students with older students began writing. After the noisy and creative task, students shared their poems full of imagery like red junky trucks, owls, golden retrievers, ribbons in the wind, jack-a-lopes, bald eagles, deer, tomatoes, trout and dinosaurs.

“We did place poems like a little ‘Montana Sampler’ – a snap shot of the area to go to Washington, D.C.,” Patterson said. “They wrote beautiful poems about water, about the Bitterroot River, Victor Crossing, and area animals. The mixture of ages is great; especially the classes that have worked together before because they inspire one another.”

Patterson said the younger children are “close to their senses.”

“They help the older kids get back to their senses,” she said. “Other writers have noticed that too. Young children are close to their sensory experiences.”

At the end of each period, the poems were collected and the creative imagery will be available for artists in Ogden’s art class to use for inspiration.

“The large ornaments are weather proof. They snap together like Easter eggs,” Ogden said. “We can add text and 3-D objects to represent our state. It depends on my students. This is their opportunity to brainstorm ideas, and pair visuals with the images in the poems. I like the authenticity of student voices.”

Ogden said she sees poetry as a “great equalizer.”

“It allows people to say things they wouldn’t normally say with normal language,” she said. “That’s why I love this project - it is a way to be the most expressive about a place we are very fond of but have a hard time saying.”

The ornaments must be in the mail by Halloween.

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