By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
DEWITT — St. Joseph Catholic School students Andrew Ericksen and Isaac Blandin earned runners-up honors in a regional video contest to demonstrate the importance of pollinators. It’s a bittersweet honor for the boys, their families and school. Andrew died unexpectedly June 12, the day before the families learned that his and Isaac’s pollinator video was among 12 finalists in the second annual Quad Cities Pollinator Conference. Their video was first runner-up in the junior high division. (Three other entries from their school were among the finalists.)
Andrew’s younger brother, Noah, who will be in third grade at St. Joseph’s, stood in for his brother at the June 23 award ceremony at the River Center in Davenport. He and Isaac posed for a photo, both holding the certificate. St. Joseph’s earned $500 as a prize for the entry which Andrew and Isaac created as an assignment for their seventh-grade 21st Century Skills class taught by Brenda McKone. “They were a pretty good combo,” she said. Andrew “was pretty complementary to his friend.”
“We have a dream to use this money to create a way station for monarch butterflies,” St. Joseph Principal Sharon Roling said. “The way station would be located next to the school’s playground. Since Andrew’s dad (Grant) is a science teacher in the Pleasant Valley School District, he will be a vital resource in this project. Isaac, along with his classmates, will help in the actual development of this if our dream becomes a reality, which I’m sure it will.”
The recognition comes at a sad time for the Ericksen family — Grant, his wife Annette and their younger son Noah. The video award provides some comfort. “It shows that he’s still there,” Annette said, as tears welled in her eyes during an interview July 1. “It’s kind of bittersweet.”
For Isaac, classmate, friend and partner with Andrew in other school projects, the award serves as “a good memory that I had with him before he was gone.”
Andrew and Isaac used claymation, a form of stop-motion animation, to create the 30-second video that shows a bumble bee flying above a tree whose flowers are transformed into red apples. In text and in clay, the boys explain that pollination allows fruit to grow. Without pollination, no fruit grows and no seeds are produced. The tree’s white flowers wither, fall off and become cotton balls on the ground.
Annette, and Isaac’s mom, Corrin Blandin, enjoyed listening as Isaac described for The Catholic Messenger the movie production process. He took still photos while Andrew stood behind the couch and dangled the clay bumble bee from an “invisible” fishing line over the clay apple tree.
They’d worked together on projects since fifth grade, Isaac said. Their last project, also for Brenda’s class, resulted in a QR Code (Quick Response) version of the Periodic Table. “We had just finished all of the codes and had printed them out,” Isaac explained. Why the Periodic Table? “We didn’t want to do anything simple,” Isaac said. Brenda told them they could finish the extensive project in their eighth-grade 21st Century Skills class. Isaac opted to complete the project this summer and entered it in the Clinton County Fair.
With a smart phone’s QR reader, viewers can scan each of the elements on the Periodic Table to view a particular element’s characteristics. In the bottom right-hand corner, a special QR code reveals images of Andrew: one of him boating and the other of him in hunting clothes. “He thought this would be a good way to honor Andrew, too,” Isaac’s mom said. In fact, Isaac’s project has been selected to represent Clinton County at the Iowa State Fair.
Annette is touched by Isaac’s gesture. “Andrew’s friends have just been very good in every aspect … they are just a special group of young guys.”
She said her family is relying on the strength of their faith to help them deal with their loss. Andrew was an easy-going teen who liked to do things over the top and off the wall and loved to be with friends, she added. “We’ve had wonderful community support. St. Joe’s is like a family in and of itself. … Everybody’s stepped up to show their support and prayers. That gives us the strength to find the new normal.”
“Andrew will never be forgotten because of the many gifts that he shared with his classmates in and out of the classroom,” Roling said. “He was a good example of a faith-filled student.”
“He was a great example of what a friend is; he taught them all to be a good friend,” Corrin added.