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Art installation remembers each former Central Secondary student who died in WW1, WW2

165 ceramic poppies dot the front lawn of Central Secondary School. Each one represents a former student killed during the first or second World War. .
165 ceramic poppies dot the front lawn of Central Secondary School. Each one represents a former student killed during the first or second World War. . Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

For each of its former students who died in the First or Second World Wars, there’s now a ceramic poppy standing strong on the front lawn of Central Secondary School.

Creating the 165 remembrance flowers was a year-long effort inspired by Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, an art installation in the U.K. that brought together Central’s history and art departments, and a team of tech students from Medway High School.

Remembrance Day: Tower of London poppy installation

For the past six years, teacher Mitch Harris says the history club has been trying to humanize the names on memorial plaques at the front of Central.

“We’d select a number of them, then do some research into their lives, into their service records, obviously, but also going through central’s archives trying to bring some anecdotal personal information to give a human element to that sacrifice.”

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Art department head Anna Fong came home with the idea to create a smaller scale version of the installation, after seeing nearly 900,000 ceramic poppies at the Tower of London.

READ MORE: Veterans help create set for Grand Theatre’s production of ‘The Wars’

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“In one way, shape, or another, nearly all of the Grade 10s have made a poppy,” Fong explained.

Grade 9 students taking art last year made a bunch of ceramic poppies. When classes began again in September, Grade 10 students, history students, staff, and administration, were invited to make the rest.

Help was also enlisted from Medway’s tech students.

“We don’t have the capacity here at this school to have the rods that we would need to support them, and I have a friend who is a head of the tech department [at Medway] so they were ever so generous in lending their expertise,” said Fong.

It’s been a while since some of the students have seen their handiwork; the poppies had to be fired, painted, and stored. But when they were rolled through the hallways Monday, Fong said it was heartwarming to hear the excitement among the students.

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“There’s a real sense of ownership I think, in the piece, and sense of community in that too.”