Second-graders study the pictures and the curved antlers on tables in front of them and sketch their own O'Keefe-inspired masterpieces as sunlight pours through windows with views to downtown skyscrapers.
"What do bones represent?'' art teacher Danny Mey asks the 6- and 7-year-olds. "Let's look again at O'Keefe's work."
Hands shoot up.
"Animals. Skeletons. Pets," students answer. "Death,'' says one boy.
"That's right,'' says Mey, known as Coach D. "And what are you studying right now?"
Several children answer at once: "The Day of the Dead.''
Polaris integrates the arts into nearly every aspect of its curriculum and knits "specials" like art, music, drama and library with thematic studies in core academic classes. Second-graders study Latin America. During the fall, their journey takes them to Mexico. With excitement building over Halloween, October is the perfect time to ponder the spookiness of the Day of the Dead tradition.
On this particular Monday morning, a tour group of more than a dozen prospective parents strolls through the classroom during Coach D's O'Keefe lesson. The parents are spellbound.
One mother, Ashley McCollum, a former gifted teacher at a DPS school in Stapleton, has brought her 8-year-old, Casey, to see if the school's a good fit for him. His 6-year-old sister is a first-grader at Polaris.
McCollum, who is home-schooling Casey, is a big fan of the Polaris program.
"I love that it's art-infused. I love the thematic units, the integration of all subjects. Children need to see connections,'' she said.
For the full story by Katie Kerwin McCrimmon and Nancy Mitchell, visit Education News Colorado.
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