Paula Gross, an educational assistant at Eric Langton elementary, created a display of hobbit houses made primarily from discarded objects, for the front display case at the school. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

Paula Gross, an educational assistant at Eric Langton elementary, created a display of hobbit houses made primarily from discarded objects, for the front display case at the school. (Colleen Flanagan/The News)

Hobbit house display created for Earth Day by Lower Mainland educational assistant

Paula Gross created the display using discarded objects and natural items

Staff and students at Eric Langton Elementary School in Maple Ridge have been deciding what kind of house they would like to live in.

But not in the real world – in a hobbit world that an educational assistant at the school created in order to decorate the front display case in honour of Earth Day.

Most want to live in the house high on a branch with a pink door and miniature stick bridge. Others like the teapot house with the blue door tucked away in the corner that has a tiny chess game set out on a small log table. But there are others, eight in total, along with a stick bridge over a pond, a log staircase, a table set for two for tea, and purple tissue paper wisteria hanging from the top.

The hobbit land was created by Paula Gross who was inspired by story workshops at the school – when students collect trinkets from bins to spark their creative juices to write a story.

She thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to create your own little world. Then she looked at the empty display case and decided to create a special world for the students.

Gross described the project as a labour of love.

“I created it because I thought people could enjoy it,” said the humble artist.

So, for the past two weeks she started collecting things like broken pots and plates, broken bottles, branches, moss, rocks, broken glass, and sticks.

She only had to purchase a couple of items from the store. However, the bill for the whole display was only about $5.

“I also wanted to showcase that you don’t need to be rich to create because it’s all things you find in nature,” noted Gross.

Gross worked at home, an hour here and there, putting the houses together, and then assembled the display case in about five hours after school earlier this week for Earth Day.

Gross admits she is artistically inclined and comes from an artistic family. She also paints, but has never displayed her work aside from the walls of her house. However, she was astonished herself when the whole project came together.

She has even included an “I Spy” element to the display with a list of items to find posted on the side of the case for students to look for – and the objects are not easy to find.

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Gross says it helps students calm down as they search for the different items.

“Then we go back to class and they are ready to learn again,” she said.

“We had no idea she had this talent,” said Jennifer Simon, principal of Eric Langton elementary. “People were just wowed.”

Simon is going to keep the miniature village on display longer than Earth Day. Gross says they can decorate it for different occasions, like with snow at Christmas time and little lanterns for the Chinese New Year.

The display case beneath it remains empty which has Gross thinking about extending the village underground.

Just seeing how much joy the village has brought to people, has made Gross’ efforts worthwhile.

“I would do it all again,” said Gross. “I would totally put in every effort because people appreciated it and that’s what you hope for.”


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