Students from Shelby County High School joined fellow students from 56 schools across the country to design one-of-a-kind ornaments for the 2020 National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse in President’s Park. These unique ornaments will adorn 56 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree. The trees represent each U.S. state, territory, and the District of Columbia as part of the America Celebrates ornament display. This year, several ornaments from each school will also be displayed inside the White House.
The America Celebrates ornament program is a collaboration of the National Park Service (NPS), the U.S. Department of Education, and the National Park Foundation (NPF). The U.S. Department of Education worked through state art and education offices, which identified elementary, middle, and high schools to participate in the America Celebrates program. The project is funded by the NPF.
From state flowers to notable landmarks, students created ornaments that celebrate their state, district or territory.
Shelby County High School art teacher, Michelle Branson, said that a total of 12 students helped to create the designs used for the Alabama ornaments. Their designs included depictions of the state’s official symbols, including the flag, bird (Northern flicker or Yellowhammer), flower (Camelia), and fruit (blackberry). The student’s artwork also featured notable places such as the state capital building, NASA’s Marshall Space and Rocket Center, Sloss Furnance, Legion Field, and the Alabama Gulf Coast. Meteorologist James Spann was also featured with his own ornament, as were the famous Cahaba Lillies and Alabama’s indigenous people groups and cultures.
Shelby County High School students who created the ornaments were Yisell Garcia, Trae Richards, Ruthie Jones, Paisley Barrow, Mary Moore, Madison Smith, Madelyn Guy, Maddy Lee, Lauren Campbell, Kayleigh McCombs, Cailyn Ingram, and Bella Korby.
The students designed the ornaments on paper templates that were provided as part of the project. Those paper designs were later turned into the actual ornaments that now adorn the Alabama tree in the display.
The America Celebrates display is one of the highlights of the National Christmas Tree experience. A virtual National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony will be held Thursday, Dec. 3 at www.thenationaltree.org. This year’s show will feature the recorded lighting of the National Christmas Tree, holiday performances and more. Due to COVID-19-related public health concerns, the NPS and NPF will not host a live audience this year. The show will be available to stream on-demand throughout the holiday season.
The National Christmas Tree Lighting has strong ties to education. In 1923, a letter arrived at the White House from the District of Columbia Public Schools proposing that a decorated Christmas tree be placed on the South Lawn of the White House. On Christmas Eve that year, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the Oval Office to the Ellipse and pushed a button that lit the first National Christmas Tree. It was a 48-foot balsam fir donated by Middlebury College in Vermont.
Since 1973, the National Christmas Tree has been a living tree which can be viewed year-round in President’s Park – one of America’s 422 national parks! A 30-foot Colorado blue spruce currently serves as the National Christmas Tree.