BIDDEFORD, Maine — Students in Anna Gervais’ first grade classroom at St. James School cut golden flower petals out of sheets of construction paper on Monday afternoon with tiny, blunt-ended safety scissors.
Next, they glued them around brown circles, making sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower and a symbol of resistance against Russian aggression. Then, they hung each flower in their classroom window, for the world to see.
The show of support for the war-torn country in eastern Europe took place throughout the school, in every classroom, from pre-school to eighth grade. Originally, the school was going to celebrate Pi Day on Monday but shifted gears when Pope Francis urged Catholics to show support for Ukraine.
Clockwise from left: A student at St. James School in Biddeford hangs a paper sunflower in their classroom window on Monday, March 14, 2022, in a school wide show of support for Ukraine; A first-grader constructs a paper sunflower, showing support for Ukraine; First grade teacher Anna Gervais helps student Amen Daniel hang her paper sunflower on their classroom window. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
St. James is run by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland.
“In God, no act of love, no matter how small, and no generous effort will ever be lost,” Francis said.
Students also made blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags and peace symbols for the windows. In addition to the crafts, the entire school said prayers for peace and began collecting donations for Catholic charities providing relief.
In Gervais’ classroom, some students asked questions about their own safety. With patience, their teacher assured them they were safe and their project was to support a small, far-away country that wanted to be free and peaceful.
Upstairs, fifth grade students were more sure of the details of the conflict which started on Feb. 24. A Ukrainian flag waved on a video monitor at the front of their classroom.
Clockwise from left: Sunflowers, peace symbols and other signs of support adorn windows at St. James School in Biddeford on Monday, March 14, 2022, during a school wide project showing support for Ukraine; Sixth graders hang paper sunflowers in the classroom; Ethan Davie, a seventh grader, constructs paper sunflowers with classmates. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN
In the basement, seventh and eighth grade students listened to peaceful, Ukrainian instrumental music as they cut and glued in near silence.
By the end of the day, St. James School’s front windows were full, top to bottom, with sunflowers.