This year’s decorations – diffusion circles, laminated, painted with watercolors and sporting leaf rubbings hang from the light fixtures. The Sukkah panels we painted in years past are draped in a corner and a panel of painted, laminated leaves is hanging on the loom (for lack of another spot). It is my responsibility to fulfill the obligation of hiddur mitzvah (beautifying the commandment) for our school’s sukkah. Given that our spacious sukkah can seat somewhere around 60 students for lunch, this is a daunting undertaking every year.
Ours is a ‘green’ sukkah, decorated with little to no waste. The decorations made by the children can be reused in their home sukkot in subsequent years. Paper chains are a traditional sukkah decoration but they are not friendly to either the environment or the budget and, with a single rain, are ruined. The process of making chains, though, is a wonderfully social one so we do make chains that last (fortunately we actually have 2 sukkot in which to hang them!). One of our chains was created from extra-large and puffy pipe stems sold by Lakeshore Learning. For another, I laminated old calendar pages (ones by artist Malcah Zeldis are especially colorful), and sliced them into strips that the students chained together. During the rest of the school year, this chain is draped around the perimeter of the Art Studio ceiling. Both these chains have survived the weather for years.
Our Chinese lantern shades are particularly popular with the middle school crowd, an age when sukkah decorating has usually become a distant memory. Made from nylon fabric, we decorate them with fabric markers and with all 4 sides essentially being ‘blank canvasses’ a teacher can incorporate any content area desired. (fabric lanterns can be purchased at Just Artifacts. Silk hoops from Dharma Trading are amongst our favorite decorations. They do come in several sizes. For decorating the sukkah, where they hang by thin picture wire, we prefer the 8 inch diameter. I have students trace the diameter of the silk hoop onto a piece of scratch, or goose (good on one side everybody!) paper and draw their design. After I approve the design, students use fabric markers to then trace their work onto the silk hoop fabric markers. If preferred, student s can also paint these with fabric dyes for a ‘tie dye’ effect.
Through the years, our students have painted panels to drape the walls of our sukkah. I purchase large white nylon banners, along with acrylic paints, from S&S crafts. Usually I create a design on butcher paper and lay that under the nylon banner. After taping down the fabric, students can see the design underneath and paint it onto the panel. These panels are already prepared with grommets and ties so are very easy to hang. Frequently our graduates will return during Sukkot to reminisce about painting these panels.
This year, I happened to find an unopened panel of diffusion paper circles. Diffusion paper takes watercolor paint with spectacular results. Students used leaf rubbing plates and crayons to begin their art work. They followed this with liquid watercolor paints and finished by adding ice cream salt crystals on top. Left for a few hours, the salt sucks up the paint leaving an imprint of the crystal. When the circles were dry, I ran them through the laminator. The final result is a rainbow of colors that give the This year, I happened to find an unopened panel of diffusion paper circles. Diffusion paper takes watercolor paint with spectacular results. Students used leaf rubbing plates and crayons to begin their art work. They followed this with liquid watercolor paints and finished by adding ice cream salt crystals on top. Left for a few hours, the salt sucks up the paint leaving an imprint of the crystal. When the circles were dry, I ran them through the laminator. The final result is a rainbow of colors that give the effect of stained glass sun catchers. Some students take their decorations home directly after the holiday and some prefer to have me hang them in the school corridors where they brighten everyone’s year. Once again, the OHDS sukkah will be a fantastic, earth friendly shelter for resting and eating.