Jennifer Istas is only in her second year as Chapman School’s library media specialist, but she has already started a school-wide event that she hopes will continue on for years to come.
“You never know with planning things like this if it’s going to go well,” said Istas. “But the kids and parents really took to it and it is bigger than I ever imagined.”
The assignment? To decorate and paint — not carve — pumpkins to look like the students’ favorite literary characters. The completely optional assignment resulted in roughly 72 pumpkins being brought to Chapman Elementary School on Friday, Oct. 18, overtaking any open counter space that may have existed in the school library.
The students were given complete creative control over which characters they chose, allowing for a wide variety of books to be represented among the pumpkins — from Harry Potter to Dr. Seuss.
The decorations vary from intricate characters painted on the pumpkins to ones with 3D effects, such as feathers, glitter, and rhinestones.
“I wanted to give the kids an opportunity to really get into the assignment so I specifically left the instructions vague,” Istas explains.
The pumpkins aren’t just a nice library decoration for Chapman. Istas will invite a small group of staff members to judge the pumpkins, choose a winner and announce the decision on Thursday, Oct. 31, during Chapman’s Halloween school assembly. The students will also get a chance to vote on a winning pumpkin done by peers a grade below their own.
Winners, according to Istas, will receive a goodie bag full of October-themed items assembled by Istas herself.
“I worked on my pumpkin pretty much all day,” said Olivia Miele, a fourth grade student at Chapman who painted her pumpkin to look like Mike Wazowski from “Monsters, Inc.” and its companion book series. “I had to paint multiple coats and then had to flip it over to do the bottom part (of the pumpkin). My mom did the arms and legs though.”
Since Istas has arrived at Chapman, the Library has turned into a creative outlet for some of her students.
“She is just so creative,” said Joan Ruotolo, the library media technician and Istas’s co-worker. “She has introduced so many creative tasks for the kids. She has even hand-painted some of the chairs with literary characters.”
“I think it gives some kids a completely different outlet, which is great,” Ruotolo continued.
While Istas already has plans for a similar contest in the spring, the students who participated in the assignment will remember this first pumpkin contest for a long time.
“It was a lot of fun picking the characters and decorating the pumpkins,” said AJ Giuliano, also in fourth grade.