Forest Grove Elementary students will be celebrating Orange Shirt Day this year with all 95 students wearing a shirt custom designed by two of their schoolmates.
Principal Mark Doolan said the school held a t-shirt design contest in June to honour National Aboriginal Day and grow the momentum started by several activities with Canim Lake Band elders. The activities included the students building their own drums and learning a traditional song, which they then performed for elders Elsie Archie and Antoinette Archie.
“This year we’ve made a commitment to honour our local First Nations and that’s why it feels so good to start the year with this shirt,” Doolan said.
The shirt uses designs drawn by Grade 7 students Marissa Taylor and Callie Gilbert. As a member of the Canim Lake Band, Callie said making a design that represented Orange Shirt Day was especially important to her.
Marissa said the students were given a series of shapes and ideas to incorporate into their design. She selected several of them and combined them to create a figure standing holding a drum with a dreamcatcher embroidered on it in one hand and a drum stick in the other.
“I kind of like to draw and I thought the contest would just be good to do for fun,” Marissa said.
Doolan said they chose Marissa’s design in part because of her use of the shapes she chose. The design was very clean and creative, which really “wowed” the staff when they were looking through the submissions, he said.
Callie went for a simple design of a pair of hands holding an eagle feather. Doolan said several other students included hands in their designs, which they used as a way to convey a message of welcome.
“A lot of the pictures I see of First Nations, they normally have a feather in each photo, so I decided to put a feather in my design to repeat that idea,” Callie said. “People usually have the feathers in their hair or they hold them. Because I didn’t want to draw hair I decided to put the hands out to make it feel like I’m giving the feathers to somebody.”
Both girls were excited to find out their designs were selected, especially Callie who found out on her 12th birthday, and can’t wait to see the other students wearing the shirts.
Their designs are being combined for the t-shirt in Photoshop by teacher Sebastian Kass and will be printed onto the shirts by local resident Sue Fryer. The students will receive their shirts in time for the school’s Orange Shirt Day on Oct. 1.