REGINA — St. Francis School Grades 5 and 6 teacher Kelly Walby was looking for an Advent project for her class in December 2013. She contacted the Regina Food Bank and asked if there was anything her class could do in an artistic vein that would help the Food Bank.
“He told me, ‘Well, we have these ugly brown boxes we use to pack our Christmas hampers. Could you do anything with that?’ Could we, I replied!”
So began a project that took on a life of its own. From 30 boxes from students in one classroom in December 2013 it has expanded to more than 1,000 boxes from nine schools in the Regina Roman Catholic School Division and two in Regina public School Division. Walby said 30 individual families also became involved.
“I had a family night December 3 and more than 100 people showed up just from St. Francis, and the families asked to do this again next year.”
The Food Bank supplied the boxes and all students in the nine elementary schools took part. Students were given some suggestions then left to vary what had been suggested or design something of their own, which many did. Most used a stained glass motif with a variety of vivid colours. One class used a crib scene on a blue background and most students created their own version of the scene with words of hope, joy, love in the design. The three words showed up frequently on most of the boxes.
St. Francis Grade 8 student Christine Tholl decorated three boxes, an activity she said has given her more of a Christmas spirit. “It’s really fun and I think it’s really a good idea to make people happy, especially at Christmas time.”
Walby wanted the project to involve art because of her background. She is a visual artist who comes from a family background of artists. She began her teaching vocation in Moose Jaw where she taught for six years, then became a Regina police officer for 10 years. She always liked to draw and recognizing her talent the police department sent her to Baltimore, Md., where she received special training to become a forensic sketch artist. But her first love is teaching, to which she returned in the Regina Catholic School division.
Besides making hamper recipients happy, the project appears to be a happy experience for the students and teachers get a better understanding of their students.
“I think that art brings out a part in children that you don’t normally see in the classroom. Free reign in what’s in their minds and their imaginations, it really is a different way to see a child.”