Junior High students in Winnipeg are creating hearts to honour the 1,000 plus Manitoban lives that have been lost due to the novel coronavirus. 

Mirae Young is the visual arts teacher at Gordon Bell Secondary School in Winnipeg. 

"Back in February an organization called Communities Not Cuts started a memorial of hearts on the river walk. It was created to honour the individuals whose lives have been lost to COVID," says Young. 

Each day the media reports the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the province alongside the number of deaths. 

"One of the main focuses is to make sure that we honoured the lives and look at them as people and not just statistics. Also to give a place for those people who had lost very close people to them, a place to go and mourn in a safely distant way," she says.

After the river melted, the hearts moved to Memorial Boulevard. 

"The person in charge of the memorial approached me and asked me if I wanted to be a part of it with my students at Gordon Bell. Myself and the school said yes."

That's when Young began to brainstorm how the students could get involved. 

"Each student in junior high created a heart that memorialized someone who had died from COVID-19. It was also a way to spread love and compassion to the community because we're all going through such difficult times."

Young says the act of creating these hearts also helps the students articulate some emotions they have from all that is going on. 

"It's still growing and we're getting hearts every day from our remote learners. We hope to continue for as long as possible," says Young. 

While the past year has been terribly difficult as a teacher, Young says she's grateful to teach art.

"Art is a wonderful way for students to try and deal with the overwhelming world around them. To be able to guide them through that has been really good for me personally."