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Two dozen fourth grade students from Riverview Elementary School designed holiday cards like this one last year, then sold the cards as fifth graders this year.

Riverview Elementary project creates holiday cards

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Riverview Elementary School art teacher Rafa Estrella didn't know how his new project would go when he came up with it last year. But now he does - it was a tremendous success.

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Estrella came up with the idea to make holiday cards from artwork done by fourth grade students. The thought was, he'd find a few students who would want to make pictures and would come up with the messages inside the cards. Maybe they would even be able to sell a few boxes this year. If they sold 100 boxes, well, that would have been a really good first run.

Turns out, though, lots of kids wanted in on the action. And lots of adults wanted the cards. After about 10 days of selling, Estrella had to stop taking orders because they exceeded the goal by about a dozen sales.

And he couldn't be more thrilled.

"There's been a nice response from everybody toward the cards," Estrella said. "They're very supportive. Parents and staff alike. Now it's kind of a chain reaction. It's a wonderful thing."

A new idea

Estrella has a wish list of items he'd like to purchase to enhance the art program at Riverview Elementary. He'd like to expand the clay program and he's always in need of paper cutters. At times, he's been limited in what he could teach or how he could teach certain media because he needs other materials.

When he was younger, Estrella participated in an after-school art program in Chicago. As a part of that program, Estrella made cards for a fundraiser. After coming to Farmington, he started to think about how that project could be adapted to raise some funds here, too.

He contacted Peggy Johnson at the ISD 192 document center. They talked it over, came up with the logistics - how many cards to make, how much it could cost and so on. He presented it to RVES principal Kim Grengs, who gave him the go-ahead. Then he introduced it to the fourth grade students last year.

Estrella's project only allowed for 24 different designs. With about 125 students in the grade, he knew he couldn't take designs from every student, so he outlined the program early in the year. He told the students he would select participants based on their performance in his classroom.

Eventually he chose 24 students, then named a few more to a waiting list. Those who were asked to participate had to sign a contract stating that they would work through the entire project, and that they would have their artwork completed on time. If one of those first 24 had not followed through, then Estrella would have turned to the waiting list. That didn't happen, though.

"I told them, if you guys want to be a part of this, you're going to have to show me. There shouldn't be an incentive," Estrella said. "For them to see what they can do and support that, I think that's a very valuable lesson that hopefully they can carry on until they're adults."

The fourth graders who made cards turned them in before the end of last school year. Estrella continued to work on the project little by little over the summer, working with Johnson to put together the packages and prices.

For sale

When those students came back this year as fifth graders, they were put to work again. This year, they had to go out and sell those cards.

The cards were sold in a couple of packages. With 24 designs to choose from, buyers could get a package of two dozen of the same image, or they could purchase a package that had one of everything.

Estrella wanted to teach the fifth grade students about how to market artwork, which he's been working on this fall. The culmination of the project came these past few weeks, when students were asked to go out and sell the cards.

The cards are being printed this week, with the intended distribution around Thanksgiving so people have time to get their holiday cards out. When the last of the orders came in, the Estrella was able to realize just how successful this venture had been.

"The response was great. These are incredible cards," Estrella said. "You can just see how excited (the kids) are about their work, and they should be. They should feel accomplished about their work."

Because this was the first run and Estrella did not know how it would go, the RVES holiday cards are no longer for sale in 2011. However, Estrella does plan to reevaluate the project this year, and may consider printing more in the future.

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Michelle Leonard
Michelle Leonard started covering the Farmington community in June, 1994. Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the Farmington American Legion Auxiliary Unit 189, and acts as the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 
(651) 460-6606
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