Olathe Elementary School students were getting into the holiday spirit last week as they crafted ornaments for the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree.

This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree will come from the Uncompahgre Plateau in the Ouray Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service.

The Pirates designed floral ornaments to celebrate Colorado’s columbine flower and fall colors after the district informed staff about the Capitol Christmas Tree.

First grade teacher Amy Mummert said she discussed the history behind the Capitol Christmas tree with her class.

“Before beginning the ornaments, I had my first grade class watch a quick three-minute video of the tree delivery into Washington D.C. from last year,” Mummert said. “Then (we) discussed how each year the tree comes from a different state and this year Colorado will be supplying the Christmas tree and the tree will come from one of our local forests.”

Mummert said she came up with the idea for the ornaments from the Colorful Colorado motto. As the students crafted their ornaments, Mummert said she “had a guided discussion ... about seasons, leaves changing and how trees are a natural resource here in Colorado.”

Students used popsicle sticks, glue dots, wax paper, glue, tissue paper and a found leaf that had changed color to make their ornaments.

“The students really enjoyed making these during school and learned about our state, our country, a local natural resource, the seasons and how to create something beautiful from simple materials,” she said. “They were very proud of their work and so excited to have the ornaments displayed in Washington D.C.”

First grade teacher Sarah Weber also worked with her students to create ornaments.

“After discovering that the National Capitol’s Christmas tree was coming from our surrounding national forests, we felt that it was truly an honor and privilege to get to create Christmas decorations for our national tree,” Weber said. “This opportunity comes around very rarely and we decided this would be a great opportunity to be part of this amazing experience.”

Weber’s students created columbine flower ornaments using purple and white foam sheets, sticky dots and ink pads.

“The national forests are where a lot of the columbines grow and it is our state flower,” she said. “We felt this combination was a perfect reason for creating the columbine ornament.”

Ahead of the craft, Weber and her students talked about where the tree is coming from and why they should participate in the experience. They also talked about America’s government system.

“We talked about our important leaders and how they make important decisions for our country and this is where many of them work,” Weber said.

While learning about history and arts through the craft, students also realized they had an opportunity to brighten someone’s day at the Capitol with their festive ornaments.

“I hope they learned what our state flower is, why it is important to support our important leaders of our country and hopefully it was just fun,” Weber said.

Due to the effects of COVID-19 on social gatherings, this year’s tree was selected virtually from 10 candidates within the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests. As part of the selection criteria, the Forest Service said this year’s tree stands 55 feet tall and is 25 feet wide.

“The challenge in selecting a tree for the West Lawn is making sure it is symmetrical, full and in the perfect scale to gracefully adorn the U.S. Capitol,” said Jim Kaufmann, director of capitol grounds and arboretum for the architect of the capitol.

“In a normal year, we scour the forest for this special tree. Due to the pandemic, we used videos, pictures and measurements supplied by the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests to identify a suitable Engelmann spruce that all Coloradans can be proud of.”

The tree will be harvested from the Uncompahgre Plateau on the Ouray Ranger District in early November before going on a cross-country tour and gracing the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. throughout the holiday season. The tree will be decorated with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from the people of Colorado, including Montrose County School District students.

Lauren Brant is a staff writer and digital content coordinator for the Montrose Daily Press.

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