A school project from more than two years ago inspired Ryan Hirschhorn, a sixth grader at Berner Middle School in the Massapequa School District, to create a larger piece that promotes support for Ukraine. Ryan’s piece of blue and gold hearts is on display at Birch Lane Elementary School before it heads to Washington, D.C. this summer.
When Ryan was in fourth grade at Birch Lane, his magnet teacher, Kelsey Downey, gave them a project to make a sculpture of hearts for Valentine’s Day. The materials were simple: strips of pink, purple and red construction paper, along with their imaginations.
After showing it to his dad, he decided to build a stronger version of the sculpture with spraypainted pieces of copper. Ryan tapped into that old idea to show support for the citizens of Ukraine and decided to do a bigger version with yellow and blue hearts, which are the colors of the Ukrainian flag.
The hearts in the new sculpture were made with aluminum, sanded and painted, and riveted together. Ryan said he spent much time moving the two dozen hearts around until he got the design just right. His website, ryanhirschhorn.com, shows the progress of the Hearts for Ukraine sculpture.
It was first displayed at a fundraiser hosted by Project C.U.R.E., which has launched the Caring for Ukraine campaign for medical equipment and supplies. After that fundraiser, Ryan got in contact with his former principal, Steve Aspetti, and assistant principal, Joyce Larkin, about displaying it for the rest of the school year in the lobby. They were overjoyed that the former student, whose younger brothers Cooper and Gabe still attend Birch Lane, wanted to share it with the school. Ryan built a new base with the words “kindness,” “hope” and “love” in blue letters for the display at Massapequa’s most populous elementary building.
“We wanted to get this out there, so why not display it in a place where a large number of people could see it?” Ryan said, adding that the goal is to encourage people to donate to any charity that supports Ukraine. “I feel really grateful they let me display it here. It doesn’t really do anything if I keep it in my house.
When the school year ends, Ryan’s piece will be moved to the Ukraine House in Washington, D.C. He and his father will load it into the car and drive it there.
Added Ms. Downey, “I’m so impressed and inspired how he took what was a simple, just-for-fun STEAM challenge, and turned it into something meaningful, that is going to be seen by a lot of people.”
1: Massapequa sixth grader Ryan Hirschhorn displayed his Hearts for Ukraine sculpture at Birch Lane Elementary School through the end of the school year.
2: Ryan was inspired by a Valentine’s Day project he did in fourth grade for magnet teacher Kelsey Downey.
Photos courtesy of the Massapequa School District