RSHS students promote recycling with Festival of Trees decorations

Rock Springs High School students pictured from left decorating the upcycled tree are Trevor Allred, Austin Ellis and Braden Wilson. (Wyo4News Photos/Ann Jantz)

By Ann Jantz,

ROCK SPRINGS, WYOMING (Nov. 16, 2019) — Rock Springs High School Economics Science teacher Larissa Apel and her students — along with other classes at the school — are decorating a tree with a message for the YWCA Festival of Trees.

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The tree will be decorated with ornaments made by the students from recycled materials. Apel calls it an “upcycled” tree which features only handmade ornaments, nothing purchased, to promote recycling and making items from scratch.

Handmade ornaments made from recyclable materials will decorate the tree Rock Springs High School will have for auction at the YWCA Festival of Trees.

Apel conceived her idea after attending last year’s Festival of Trees, when she noticed no trees from the school district were submitted. She is very vocal about her love of the YWCA, and she quickly started the process to be a part of the event this season.

She quickly had three Christmas trees donated to her cause.

This year’s tree currently sits in her classroom at the high school. Students have started the decorating process, but it is still only a work in progress, Apel said. More ornaments sit on the cupboards above the tree, waiting for the students to finish them and put them on the branches.

Apel is also encouraging her students to go and see the Festival of Trees and become involved in their community.

“If I can get through to just one, we’ve done something. We’ve created an aware citizen,” she said. “It’s a fun project, and I feel like we all need a little positivity.”

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The tree topper is made from plastic forks.

Apel said the students love making art from trash. In the process, she teaches them this is a way to make a difference.

The art making really took off after her class went on a field trip to Hogle Zoo to see the Washed Ashore exhibit. This traveling exhibit features animal sculptures made out of plastic ocean pollution; seeing this art inspired the students and their enthusiam level really took off, Apel noted.

Her students also take turns collecting and dumping the school recycling. She said this activity is another way to get the students involved in their community. Some students have taken the recycling to heart and have gone on to start recycling groups of their own, and Apel is proud to have been that catalyst to action.

The YWCA Festival of Trees live auction and reception is from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 5. Trees will be on display on the following dates prior to the auction:

  • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 27
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 29
  • 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Dec. 2

The trees will be set up at Commerce Bank of Wyoming, 1575 Dewar Drive, Rock Springs.

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Apel believes the YWCA is a great program and hopes their upcycled tree brings in a good bid, to help support the organization.

The tree currently is on display in RSHS teacher Larrisa Apel’s class while students continue to work on the decorations, many of which can be seen on top of the cupboards behind the tree.

“It doesn’t have to be big with sparkly ornaments to be beautiful,” she said. “Anything we can do to support them (the YWCA) is great … and the kids are learning something.”

Clay decoration were made for the upcycled tree by RSHS art students.