A graphic of a Christmas Tree decorated with drawings made by children. It reads: Dishman McGinnis Elementary of Bowling Green Independent selected for the National Christmas Tree. National Christmas Tree Lighting 2020

By Jacob Perkins

The Kentucky Department of Education has selected Dishman McGinnis Elementary (Bowling Green Independent) to represent the Commonwealth in the 2020 National Christmas Tree display.

Dishman McGinnis joins 55 other schools across the country in creating one-of-a-kind ornaments for the National Christmas Tree display on the Ellipse in President’s Park in front of the White House.

The ornaments will adorn 56 smaller trees that surround the National Christmas Tree, which represents each U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia as part of the America Celebrates display.

“The America Celebrates display is one of the highlights of the National Tree experience and we are so excited for everyone to see the ‘Kentucky Snowmen’ designs that our talented students from Dishman McGinnis came up with,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “Despite everything that our students have been through this year with the pandemic, I am so happy they were able to participate in this fun and creative event, but also learn a lot during the process.”

Due to the pandemic, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation will not host a live audience at the 2020 National Christmas Tree Lighting. Beginning Dec. 3, they will offer the opportunity to watch the 2020 National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony online.

“At Dishman McGinnis Elementary, we are honored to represent the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the national ornament display this year,” said Shawn Perkins, principal at the school. “We look forward to our ornaments being placed on the America Celebrates trees and hope that people learn what makes our students proud to be from Kentucky.”

Mary Sansom, Bowling Green Independent itinerant elementary art teacher, said her visual art students created a collection of unique images of snowmen and women enjoying the best Kentucky has to offer.

“Images range from a snow woman in a large festive hat enjoying the winner’s circle at the Kentucky Derby to a snowman in full fishing gear proudly displaying a bass just pulled from a Kentucky lake,” she said.

Despite the circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the human need to create cannot be stopped, said Sansom.

The ornament design process began with Dishman McGinnis Elementary 4th- and-5th grade visual art students researching images of iconic Kentucky landmarks, historical sites and symbols. From there, students applied knowledge they had previously learned during a snowman drawing unit, where they learned how to draw snowmen from various points of view.

The student’s objective was to create a unique ornament design by combining an image of Kentucky with a snowman or woman of their choice.

Using sharpies, watercolors and colored pencils, Sansom said the results were, “a collection of whimsical snowmen enjoying the best of Kentucky during the holidays.”  

Dishman McGinnis Elementary’s student body is internationally diverse, with more than 15 countries represented at any given time, Sansom said. According to 2019-2020 data on Kentucky’s School Report Card, the school’s student demographic is over 70% minority students.

Many of Sansom’s students had not studied Kentucky before this project and were thrilled to learn more about what makes the Commonwealth such a special place to live.

“They learned about everything from Fort Knox and the gold reserve, the Kentucky Horse Park and why our horses are world famous, to Muhammad Ali and his legacy,” Sansom said. “Often these students come from war-torn countries and Kentucky is the only safe place they know. The pride they had to learn about their new home state was heartwarming.

“I was reminded how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful and diverse state. So to say the least, it meant a great deal for my students to be able to represent the Commonwealth, and they thoroughly enjoyed learning about their state in such a meaningful way.”

VIDEO: Kentucky Snowmen: America Celebrates Display