With a little imagination and persistence, about 40 Ottawa students learned they could build a village to commemorate the holiday season. 

The handiwork of the fourth- and fifth-graders in Ottawa’s Reach for the Stars after school program is on display in the window of the school district’s Future Visions building at 206 S. Main St., Ottawa. Reach for the Stars is administered through Ottawa’s Communities in Schools program.

“The Christmas Village was a project for the students in our architecture unit,” Jamie Keiter, Reach for the Stars program director, said. “I thought it was a great project, and the kids loved it.”

Students in the after school programs at the school district’s three elementary schools — Eugene Field, Garfield and Lincoln — participated in the project, Keiter said. Sixteen students from Eugene Field, 10 students from Garfield and 15 from Lincoln constructed the cardboard village, adorned with candy and frosting decorations, Keiter said. She added that students at each site spent six, one-hour sessions — or 18 total hours — on the project.

“The architecture unit uses a lot of math,” Keiter said. “Students used grid paper to figure out the dimensions, and then they traced them on to the cardboard. They had to make sure their [calculations] were correct, so when they cut out the pieces they all fit together. It was a very methodical process that was good for the students.”

Keiter said another fun phase of the project included a science experiment, instituted about 12 years ago by Becky Nevergold, Communities in Schools’ executive director.

“The students had to make gingerbread frosting [for the buildings] from egg whites, cream of tartar and powdered sugar,” Keiter said. “Each group had to make one cup of frosting.”

Students tested their mixtures to see if they would stick to the cardboard, Keiter said. The frosting can be seen adorning the rooftops and, in some cases, serving as decorative mortar.

“The kids just loved it,” she said.

The youths also used candy to decorate the houses, especially the rooftops, Keiter said.  

“I was really impressed,” she said. “I thought the kids did an amazing job.”

Doug Carder is senior writer for The Herald. Email him at dcarder@ottawaherald.com