COLUMBIA — Amid the lights and frosted branches of MU Chancellor Brady Deaton's Christmas tree are paper mache ants and clay relief mice handcrafted by students from Lee Elementary School.
For the third year, Lee students sang songs and learned about the art and architecture of the historic house where Mark Twain once spent the night and that the Deatons now call home on Francis Quadrangle.
After three months of studying native Missouri animals and art related to Brad Sneed's "Aesop’s Fables," the students and their parents attended a holiday celebration at the Deatons’ home Friday morning.
The purpose of the event is to raise awareness about the Imagination Library, a non-profit organization founded by Dolly Parton that promotes literacy by mailing a new book each month to enrolled students under 5. Sneed’s "Fables" was one such book. The United Way and the Daniel Boone Regional Library support the Columbia chapter of the organization.
“It all connects,” Lee art teacher Ann Mehr said. “This event celebrates the children’s art, it reinforces literacy in preschool and it makes my job easier as a public school teacher. Kids with a literary background come to school ready for learning.”
Lee emphasizes teaching through the arts, integrating folk songs and tales, art and music into all aspects of students’ education. This year’s first and fourth grade students fashioned their ornaments on fabled characters, about which they also sang songs and wrote fables of their own.
And while their moral melodies filled the Deatons’ parlors, the 65 first-graders and 40 fourth-graders were exposed to values other than those just in “The Boy Cried Wolf” and “The City Mouse and the Country Mouse.”
“Coming here gives kids a vision for higher education,” Mehr said. “We have a very diverse group of students, and it gives them an opportunity to see what college looks like.”
Lee students also have their art on display at The State Historical Society of Missouri and will perform Dec. 21 at Whitmore Recital Hall.