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Some of the trees that succumbed to the October snowstorm and had their branches strewn around Western New York neighborhoods have seen new life in a Casey Middle School art project.

About 40 students used the storm debris to create nine 8-foot-tall sculptures.

"It was really unique -- it was taking something out of nothing and making something special," said Gregory Slawson, an eighth-grader.

Art teacher Donna Sleap came up with the idea for the project after seeing the extensive damage to trees.

"It was very heart-wrenching to see that kind of wreckage," she said. "I saw piles of branches, and I saw beauty in how they were stacked."

Sleap said she wanted to give the kids a new appreciation for nature and a more positive outlook on the storm that devastated hundreds of thousands of trees.

"It's been an uplifting project," she said.

She assigned her two eighth-grade classes, a total of 43 students, to write about their reflections of the storm, and they studied the work of a professional sculptor and architect. Sleap also told the pupils to bring in the twigs and branches littering their yards and neighborhoods.

"It was a personal touch to have their own trees reborn," she said.

The project spanned two weeks, and the students worked in groups of four to five.

Gregory, 13, said he initially thought: "Oh no, another project." But after completing it, his feelings changed.

"You would not have expected this; it's just a really beautiful piece of art," he said. "It's just really great. I'll never forget about the storm and the whole experience."

The abstract sculptures are standing in the school's library and draw expressions of awe from visitors.

"The project was really great because they were trees people didn't appreciate," said Emma Swanson, 13. "We turned them into something new that people could appreciate in a new way."

e-mail: esapong@buffnews.com