Austintown students design small-scale Macy’s-style floats

AUSTINTOWN — A school project that teaches Austintown Middle School students about a beloved Thanksgiving tradition also will be shared with the community this week.

Jessica Tomic’s sixth-grade language arts classes just completed their fifth annual “Balloons Over Broadway” project, based on the book of the same name by Melissa Sweet.

The book teaches students about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. After Tomic’s students read the book, they complete a research assignment that includes making their own small-scale parade floats.

The floats — 100 of which were created this year — are then arranged in a “parade” down the middle of an upstairs hallway, and students and teachers vote on their favorite displays.

Tomic said this year the faculty favorites will be posted on the Austintown Local Schools Facebook page, through Friday, for the community to vote on the best of the best. She said at least 10 floats will be on display in Southern Park Mall and Eastwood Mall, five displays in each.

She said the 100-point assignment is about much more than grades and accolades, though.

“Not all students are as academically strong as others, but with a project like this they can really show their creativity,” she said. “Students who don’t participate as much in the classroom or are ordinarily quiet, they often come in with these insanely creative projects.”

Tomic didn’t say whether or not Mia Carelly or Aubree Arnett, both 11, are necessarily quiet students, but there was no mistaking the creativity and ingenuity that went into their parade floats.

Mia based hers on the internet meme known as “Smurf-cat.” The colorful character stands on a hill above a stone-lined stream, surrounded by trees and flowers.

She said she had fun placing the flowers and the tiny cardinals in the trees, but also learned some lessons about building floats.

“I learned that it’s really hard, and that foam melts when you put super-glue on it,” Mia said. Her float also plays music when connected to her laptop via Blue-tooth.

Aubree based hers on the Christmas clay-mation classic, “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Miniature figurines of the beloved characters either march or ride a red float down a city street, lined with trees and buildings, against a backdrop of a moonlit sky painted on canvas, with a small projector shining an image upon it. Tiny strands of working Christmas lights hang across the avenue.

Aubree said she enjoyed figuring out where to put everything and finally getting to see how the display looked when the lights were added. She said she also learned about patience and attention to detail.

“When you take your time to do something, it can look really nice, and you notice how the effort is worth it,” she said.

In addition to reading the book and making the floats, students must research the history of the parade and of other parades and cultures, and give a presentation using slide-decks. While building their floats, they must document the process with “before, during, and after” photos.

Tomic said the students always seem to enjoy the project and what they learn from it.

“I think they’re also surprised that Ohio history is tied in,” she said.

The book they read explains how Akron-based Goodyear produced the silky rubber material used to make the original floats for early Macy’s parades.



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