By Nicole Davis
Cut glass and a soldering iron aren’t typically tools a third, fourth and fifth grader gets to utilize. But in Henry-Burkhart Elementary School the last couple of weeks, students have gotten to use these items to make stained glass windows, with themes they drew themselves.
“I liked the cut glass and melting the iron on it,” said Hunter Bryant, fourth grader. “It was more fun than anything I’ve ever done in my class.”
Rita Wrighton, a stained glass artist now residing in Wisconsin, was brought into the Perry Township school for two weeks to teach the students how to put together the three large glass panes. Students submitted drawings to her with themes of Burkhart Elementary, Indianapolis and Indiana. Wrighton combined those drawings into the glass collage. On the weeks of the in-class project, parents volunteer to assist students in wrapping the copper foil around the edges of the cut glass and monitor as each child takes their turn soldering the foil-wrapped glass pieces together. Wrighton comes to the school every three years for this special project. This is her fourth visit.
“Each time I think I make them more complicated,” Wrighton said. “It’s definitely worth it. I personally like the soldering. The most challenging and rewarding is seeing the whole idea put together… I couldn’t do it without the parent volunteers.”
Wrighton, who has been crafting stained glass since 1980, says she loves watching the excitement in the students as they work on the hands-on project. Their eyes fill with a mixture excitement and fear as she explains the importance of being careful, as the soldering iron can get above 500 degrees, more than their ovens at home. When it is all done on Nov. 1, the panes will be hung around the school, the largest one located in the main office inside window for everyone to view.
“It’s pretty cool, the stuff melting,” said Brooke Gordon, fourth grader. “It hardens up so quickly. I thought it was going to be really hard. As soon as I got up there I was slow because I was afraid I would mess up in one spot and melt the glass.”