Local kids’ art hangs on Christmas trees near the White House

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that the National Park Service helps find art teachers to lead the Pathway of Peace ornament project. The National Park Foundation helps find the teachers. This story has been updated to reflect the correct information.


The District of Columbia tree, left, on the Ellipse in front of the White House is one of 56 trees on the "Pathway of Peace." (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
December 17, 2013

Christmas trees are a big part of the holiday season. And most Christmas trees wear colorful ornaments that symbolize the season and often represent different people and places. That’s especially true for the 56 trees around the National Christmas Tree at the White House. They tell a little story about each state and territory and the District.

Every year, many kids and adults are asked to make the ornaments for their home trees, which have lined what is called the Pathway of Peace since 1954. They surround the National Christmas Tree, which has been decorated and lit most Decembers since 1923.

The ornaments, which are in plastic globes to protect them from the weather, tell stories about the places from which they come and tempt you to celebrate the season with a walk around the brightly lit greens.

Maryland’s Muppets

This year, 24 kids from John Philip Sousa Middle School in Southeast made Washington’s ornaments, and 24 kids from Glenwood Middle School in Howard County made Maryland’s ornaments. (The Virginia tree ornaments were made by teenagers in Richmond.) The National Park Foundation works with each state, territory and the District to find art teachers to lead the project.

Glenwood art teacher Katherine Dilworth decided that Maryland’s tree would have a Muppet theme. She chose it because Jim Henson, who created “The Muppet Show,” grew up in Hyattsville and graduated from the University of Maryland.

Sixth-grader Ellie Feaga, 11, was inspired by the Muppets, but her ornament featured a creative twist.

“I . . . shaped mine like a crab to represent Maryland,” said Ellie, who wants to be an architect and an interior designer when she grows up.

“I was really excited to find out that [the ornaments] might be up in Washington, D.C.,” she said.

The students used a technique called felting to make the faces of Kermit, Ernie, Grover, Count, Mr. Snuffleupagus and others. It took the kids about three hours to complete.

“We did felting last year,” said Glenwood eighth-grader Tori Hogan, 13, who made Ernie and who wants to be an interior designer when she grows up. “I think it’s really fun.” The kids started with a ball of wool and, using felting needles and wool, they formed eyes, noses and ears.

A lot of the kids had not felted before, but Dilworth said, “I was very excited. They came out even better than in my head.”

Washington’s monuments

Art students at John Philip Sousa Middle School made plaster reliefs. First, they drew a small sketch of a place in the District, such as the Capitol, the Washington Monument or the Chinatown archway. Then they cut foam in the shape of their drawings. They covered each foam ornament with wet plaster gauze and painted them when they dried.

On the back of the ornaments, they also painted a version of the Washington flag, replacing the banner’s stars with snowflakes or something holiday-related. It took them about five hours to complete the project.

“They get excited when other people are going to see their artwork. They’re excited to show people what they can do,” said art teacher Jenna Lee, who was planning a field trip with the class to see the trees.

Eighth-grader Jaquelyn Moore, 13, who wants to be an artist when she grows up, made a tiny Washington Monument ornament. “It’s amazing that it’s in front of whole bunch of people [and] that they will see all of our artwork,” she said. “We worked very hard.”

Moira E. McLaughlin

If you go

What: Pathway of Peace. Fifty-six decorated Christmas trees surround the 31-foot-tall National Christmas Tree. (Toy trains also run underneath the big tree.)

Where: The Ellipse, behind the White House. The best entrance is at E and 17th streets NW.

When: Daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. through January 1. Hear musical performances Wednesday-Friday from
5 to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday-Sunday from
1 to 3:30 p.m. and 5 to 8:30 p.m.

How much: Free.

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