Duncombe and Cooper elementary school students spent Tuesday making art for Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
Sandy Hook students resumed school this week after 20 students and six staff members were killed Dec. 14. Instead of returning to the elementary building, they will be using a middle school 15 miles away.
The art made by the Fort Dodge students is meant to help make the middle school building feel more like an elementary by being colorful, positive and supportive, according to Meg Beshey, Duncombe art teacher.
Colin Rodriguez, Duncombe Elementary student, makes art for Sandy Hook Elementary students returning to school this week.
"This is going to be artwork that will be hanging in the hallways for the students to see when they come in," she said. "A wonderful way for children to heal, not only art students, but for the students there, so when they walk in, they get the same feeling of school we have in Fort Dodge. They'll see something hanging in the hallways that bring back the better, happy memories."
The Fort Dodge Community School District elementary schools are joining the Connecticut Parent Teacher Student Association in helping the students.
"It was presented in such a way that we have a job to do as artists, where we can help our other school friends, even though they're far away, help them feel good about being back at school, through art," she said.
The students aren't fully aware of what happened in Newtown, Beshey said.
"We've not gone in detail with that, but most of them do understand something occurred," she said. "The main goal is to create artwork to help those kids feel better about coming back to school."
Regardless, the students were "passionate" about the project, Beshey said.
"I've never seen kids jump into something so passionately," she said. "This is all their effort. You can see all the ideas coming out. It's all been positive, it's all been colorful. They get the idea of what they have to do. It's just been wonderful."
The artwork, which could not include any words, utilizes various techniques. Some drew animals from pictures, others made tissue paper flowers.
"I wanted to see bright, colorful pictures that kids would be doing normally in a school environment," Beshey said. "That's what those kids are going to see when they walk into the school, to inspire positive feelings and make kids feel good."
Riverside and Feelhaver are also contributing to the project, as are area schools and parents working individually with their young children, Beshey said.
"This is helping people bond together, helping them feel like their doing something, that connection, and helping," she said.
Doug Van Zyl, FDCSD superintendent, applauded the students' efforts.
"I think it's a wonderful thing for staff and students to be doing," he said. "It was an idea presented to me by a staff member, Meg Beshey. I know she's been working with our students to put some projects together so they can have their classrooms and hallways decorated."
He added, "It's a horrific and tragic incident that took place. Nobody ever wants something like that to take place and it's just something that will define that community and have an impact on education across the country."
Parents of children in the community are invited to have their children draw pictures for the effort. Any artwork should be dropped off at Duncombe Elementary by Dec. 21 at 3 p.m. so it can be shipped to Connecticut.