Thunder Bay·Photos

Thunder Bay schools show support for Ukraine with blue-and-yellow day

Students at a Thunder Bay, Ont., elementary school are doing their part to support Ukraine, having raised more than $1,000 that will go toward humanitarian aid as the Russian invasion continues.

St. Paul Elementary School also raised funds for Red Cross humanitarian aid

Aubrey Wiwcharyk, a Grade 2 student at St. Paul Elementary School in Thunder Bay, Ont., points to the sunflower she made. Students made the sunflowers, which are the national flower of Ukraine, to show support for the country. (Olivia Levesque/CBC)

Students at an elementary school in Thunder Bay, Ont., are doing their part to support Ukraine, having raised more than $1,000 that will go toward humanitarian aid as a Russian invasion continues.

Students at St. Paul Elementary School participated in a raffle, with prizes that include gift cards and toys, said Grade 2 teacher Donna Pelaia.

As of Friday, the school had raised more than $1,300, which will go to the Red Cross.

Some of the prizes St. Paul school is offering as part of its raffle in support of Ukraine. As of Friday, the fundraiser had brought in more than $1,300, which will be donated to the Red Cross. (Olivia Levesque/CBC)

"It's been a huge success," Pelaia said. "All the classrooms are talking about what's happening in the Ukraine right now.

"Its a whole community and the family support, like some children, are coming in with a great donation from their family because it's a way for their family, instead of them going online and sending money to Red Cross themselves, they're just doing it through the school."

"I'm very proud of everybody in the school, children, students and staff."

St. Paul students Aubrey Wiwcharyk, Nate Smith, and Jade Fucile stand with some of the artwork at the school that aims to show support for Ukraine. (Olivia Levesque/CBC)

Students in Pelaia's class also made paper sunflowers, while kindergarten students created painted versions of the craft. The flowers can be spotted on the windows of the school, and around its hallways.

"The sunflowers, they represent ... Ukraine because its their national flower. We made a lot of sunflowers — we gave them to other kids in the school, and I'm very proud of us for making them," said Grade 2 student Aubrey Wiwcharyk, adding that the project made her think about the people of Ukraine.

"I thought about how the people in Ukraine are going through some really tough times and how we could support them and how we could help them get through what they're going through. And we could hope for lots of peace."

Other students have also been creating artwork to showcase around the school.

Grade 5 student Jade Fucile said there's been a lot of discussion about Ukraine in her own class. She said some students have been creating small flags and are talking about ways they could support the country.

"Lots of kids are doing art in my class," Jade said. "The teacher doesn't even assign it, like if we have an indoor recess lots and lots of kids are being really creative ... I think it's really great that kids are supporting."

Donna Pelaia, a Grade 2 teacher at St. Paul Elementary School, with the school's Sunflowers for Peace board. (Olivia Levesque/CBC)

Friday was also blue-and-yellow day at Thunder Bay schools — Catholic and public boards encouraged students and staff to dress in those colours to show their support for Ukraine.

The Russian invasion began about three weeks ago. On Friday, CBC News reported Russia had widened its offensive, targeting airfields while concerns mounted over a column of Russian armoured vehicles located near the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

The events in Ukraine have been much discussed by students and teachers at St. Paul.

"The kids, they have wonderful questions to share," Pelaia said, adding the discussions are "focusing more on how we can spread the peace instead of the negative part, and the scary part, of war."

"We're trying to stay positive and spread that it's a time to try and encourage peace in the world."

St. Paul principal Andrew Coggin said it's important to discuss such issues with students.

Principal Andrew Coggin stands with Grade 2 student Aubrey Wiwcharyk, who says she hopes to spread a message of peace with her sunflower artwork. (Olivia Levesque/CBC)

"Staff usually approach me and say, 'You know, how can we include this in curriculum or is this a good idea,'" he said. "We kind of come together as a group with it, whether it be in a staff meeting or informally during a break or nutrition break, and just kind of look at what is the best way to approach these subjects with kids.

"I find the staff is very creative here," he said. "They're very knowledgable. Students, you would be shocked at how much they know when things about war do come up, just with social media out there, talk in the household.

"So it's not something you can't address in the classroom. You just need to be aware of age and what's the best way of doing it."

At St. Paul, part of the approach was making paper sunflowers, which are the national flower of Ukraine, and encouraging others to place a sunflower in their window as a call for peace.

"We have a bulletin board that says sunflowers for peace," Pelaia said. "My students made a whole bunch of extra ones. We brought them around to the other classrooms and asked the teachers to put them up."

With files from Olivia Levesque