It’s About Time!

Greetings all, and a very happy and healthy start to the 2012-2013 school year! 

I hope you will forgive this very delayed post.  Many of you know that I spent the first part of our school year out on maternity leave.  On September 26, 2012 Gavin Jennings was born, and his father and I feel very blessed to have such a cute and happy baby boy.  A special thanks to those of you who sent us well wishes in recent months.  Your kindness is always appreciated.

Now… While I certainly cherished my time away with my new little family, I am very happy to be back at school and eager to share with you the most recent developments of our Integrated Global Arts program.

Some Updates:

First, our artists are no longer working with teachers to create an original “Projects” curriculum.  While doing so was an exciting component to last year’s program, our school’s leadership has decided that efforts are better spent elsewhere.  So this year our artists are working hard to incorporate a lot more technology into their work.  Thanks to our new Technology teacher, Robbi Makely,  our school now has a wikipage where student work is frequently posted and updated.  Artists and their teacher teams are now working to make student learning visible on this platform. 

Another new development this year is that our school is now a member of the iEARN network.  iEARN is an online Project Based Learning site that connects over 30,000 classrooms in over 130 countries.  So now creative school projects can be shared with children around the world!   

Lastly, while our program still aims to shape global leaders who (1) Investigate the World, (2) Weigh Other Perspectives, (3) Communicate Ideas and (4) Take Action in the world around them, this year’s Integrated Global Arts program is working with students and teachers in the subject of Literacy instead of Science and Social Studies.  So each activity and every project is firmly rooted in meeting state and core standards for Reading and Writing.

Regarding our Artists:

I am happy to announce that Adam Buehler (Visual Artist and Ice Sculptor) and Miriam Tobin (Playwright and Performer) are back at DCIS at Ford this year!  These two artists have been working hard with kids on everything from creating school brochures to building classroom machines made of the students themselves.  These activities and projects are just now culminating in a series of shared classroom experiences.  I look forward to attending next week’s Demonstrations of Learning and seeing more closely what they have been developing.

I am also pleased to announce that this year we have added Rachael Sharp to the roster of Harmony Teaching Artists.  Rachael is a dancer and choreographer who earned a degree in Social Justice Education in the Arts at the New York University.  Rachael also spent some time studying African dance in West Africa.  This week Rachael brought her passion to the (little) people when she and her friend and colleague, Baba Salim Ajanku, conducted a short workshop for first graders based on a dance the students are learning called the Tiriba.  Smiles abounded as students shook what they had and demonstrated what they have learned to Salim’s live drum demonstration.  Special thanks to Salim for his generous spirit.  We hope to have him back again next session!

African Drum Demo 2012 276 African Drum Workshop

I think that about covers the basics for now.  Please check back here from time to time and see what is new and exciting on the DCIS at Ford campus.  Our success is, to some degree, navigated by your continued support. 

Many Thanks and Happy Holidays.  ~TC


DCISF Students purchase $2,000 worth of art at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival!

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Despite blazing sunshine and soaring temperatures, the learning continues for two DCISF students.  This summer Vivian and Anahi represented our school at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival where they were given a sizable budget with which to shop for art work.  Thanks to the generous sponsorship of Janus Capital Group, our students purchased $500 worth of artwork to hang in the school’s hallways, something that is sure to improve the aesthetics of our learning and teaching environment.  Program administrators also gave the girls $1,500 to shop for artwork that will be displayed in the Mobile Art Gallery which will tour various schools, libraries and community centers throughout Colorado.

In order to prepare for the experience they girls engaged in an intensive investigation of art, both the creating of art and the observation of art.  The students researched each and every painter, mixed media artist, sketch artist and photographer presenting at the festival.  From there they selected their favorites and were asked to justify their selections. Their investigation explored questions like:

  • “What does it mean for an artist to have a vision?”
  • “How can art represent an individual?  A community?”
  • “How can art be an international language?”

When the day of the event came they were ready.  In fact, our Janus Guide commented on how prepared they were.  They knew which artists they wanted to meet, they understood their budget, and they had an idea as to where they would like to hang the work in the halls of our building.  These girls impressed us all!

After touring the booths and asking well informed questions Vivian and Anahi decided to purchase artwork from art festival veteran, Ethan Jantzer (  Their rationale was simple:  They liked the artist’s process (his photos are taken without a camera!), his artwork was affordable, and the vibrant colors and representations of nature are much needed in our old and trodden hallways.

In the end, both Vivian and Anahi had to present their selections in a public forum with nearly one hundred people in attendance.  They were asked spur-of-the-moment questions that were answered with grace.  They were gracious and respectful as they represented the DCISF community in a part of town largely unfamiliar to them.

I walked away from the experience very proud of our little leaders.  First of all, they were the only noticeable minorities in the cohort of participating students (twelve schools participated state-wide).  And in the face of an unfamiliar environment they were both very nervous but INCREDIBLY articulate.  Next, our students greeted each artist they met with a handshake and eye contact.  As educators we often overlook these valuable lessons.  Sometimes it is not what you know, but how you present yourself,  that determines success.  And on this point I’d have to say that these ladies will go very far in life.  Finally, I was thrilled to see that our parents were as supportive as they were.  The girls had their families in attendance, just another predictor of success. 🙂

Overall the day was wonderful.  The looks on the girls’ faces when they met an artist whose work they admired was priceless.  They were glowing with pride and admiration.  I’d like to extend a special thank you to my friend and colleague, Maria Segura, for all of her help.  Without her time and energy it would not have possible.

Please come by the school next year and check out our Ethan Jantzer collection!  I am certain that Vivan and Anahi would be thrilled to give you a tour.

Happy Summer!


Our Final Events are Quickly Approaching!

DCIS at Ford invites you to a Demonstration of Learning!

“What is a Demonstration of Learning?”

A Demonstration of Learning is an opportunity for our students to make their learning visible.  Our children have been actively involved in investigating the world, weighing other perspectives, communicating ideas and taking action – all through the creative lens of ART.  Now the time has come to share these experiences with the community. 

DCISF Second Graders are hosting a Community Fair from 3:00 – 4:15 on Friday, May 18th on the playground. 

  • Come enjoy four original plays written by the students themselves! 
  • Visit the students’ information booths to learn how we can all make neighborhood improvements in the areas of recycling, crime reduction, animal rescue and care, and community gardening. 
  • Bring your spare change! Refreshments will be sold at a reasonable cost to everyone attending the event. 

DCISF Kindergarteners are presenting their end of the year music concert in the school’s auditorium from 5:00 – 6:30 on Tuesday, May 22nd.  

  • Come tap your toes to some original tunes about nutrition and healthy living.
  • Be sure to stop by the cafeteria to take part in a healthy potluck feast! 

So hurry up and mark your calendar!   The school year is almost over!



Second Graders Take Their Learning Beyond the Classroom

For the past two months our second graders have been working closely with Miriam Tobin, a Theatre Artist, to explore themes of civics, economics and citizen responsibility through the lens of playwriting and theatrical performance.  In addition to collectively writing a play based on a “problem” the students observe in their own community, these classes are also learning about stage management and theatrical lighting, set, costume and sound design.  In their classrooms the students have been learning key industry terms like “inciting incident”, “lighting board”, “technician” and “grid”.   But last week, the kids took their learning beyond the school and onto the town when they attended The Snow Queen at the Denver Children’s Theatre. 

Because the performance starred Ms. Miriam Tobin in the role of the evil and cold Snow Queen, the challenge for educators was not how to get the students engaged but, rather, how to get them to contain their excitement.  Few, if any, of the students had ever attended a theatrical performance before.  Jaws dropped as we entered the space and into a world of ice castles and ambient sound.  Eyes twinkled as they saw their resident artist enter the stage for the first time.  All of the sudden the students seemed to understand why Ms. Miriam always has white paint in her hair when she arrives to class every week; the Snow Queen is covered in a solid white shimmer from head to toe.  “So that’s what make-up designers do”, I could hear them whisper.

After the performance the Mizel Arts and Cultural Center arranged for all of our students to participate in an informative Q&A session, a tour of the stage and backstage, and a mini acting class in the theater’s rehearsal space.  The experience served to solidify a link between lessons learned at school and how this magical world of theatre actually happens. 

Now I will be quite honest with you (and NO, I’m not biased :-)) when I say that our kids where the brownest, cutest kids in the audience that day.  They were all uniformly dressed in their DCIS shirts tucked into their standard khaki/blue pants and skirts.  The chaperones for our group were the teachers and staff from the school.  Conversely, many of the other children who attended the performance arrived with chaperones that appeared to be their parents, wearing sparkly dresses and collared, button down shirts appropriate for an evening of live theatre on a NY stage.  And while some might assume that these more “fortunate” kids would be the ones with the prior experiences to inform intelligent and relevant questions, it was OUR kids who were ahead of the game.  During the talkback one of our students asked the actors, “What do you think the inciting incident of the play was?”  Another DCIS student noted that she saw a “technician up in the grid changing a gel”.  I mean SERIOUSLY!  Our kids have been identified as less-than-proficient since I can remember, but last Monday these kiddos were on their game!  They were beyond proficient!  I was so, so proud of them. 

It was a beautiful day.  The students’ worlds expanded that day, and I got to observe it all happening.  They were able to experience that which they had learned.  Today many of the children tell me that they want to be a theatrical designer of some sort.  Others say they want to be a “technician”.  To me this means success.  They are aspiring to achieve.  And maybe this year they want to be a costume designer and next year they discover they want to be a graphic artist.  The important thing is that they know that they have options, and that ultimately it is up to them. 

Here are just a few pics from the day.  None of them do justice to the experience.  For a more accurate account of how things went down first close your eyes.  And then, in your mind’s eye, look upward to the clouds scattered above.  Watch as the clouds part and the vast blue sky beyond is revealed for all its wonder and size.  And finally reach up and take a piece of that big, wide universe and smush it into your heart where it will stay forever.  This is how I will carry the experience with me, and, I suspect, how the kids will too.

Con Amor,


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DCIS Foundation Fundraiser

This year the DCIS Foundation Board had the daunting task of raising funds for not one, but THREE schools in the DCIS network.  The Foundation’s mission is simple:  Provide funding, scholarships and opportunities for the DCIS students to travel and learn abroad.  While this seems quite clear at the middle and high school level, what does it mean for elementary age students to travel?   Are we really going to send six year olds to the continent of Africa for a service learning project?  Should we send a second grader to China on a learning scholarship? Are these realistic and obtainable goals?  The answer is of course not!  The Foundation Board needed to evaluate what travel means for young children, and with the help of some passionate teachers and program administrators at the school, they have decided that travel at the tender age of 5, 6 or even 10 means FIELD TRIPS! 

Now we are not talking about taking field trips just to change the scenery.  We are not talking about a trip to the movies here, folks.  We are talking about engaging experiences that compliment and build upon student learning.  We are talking about field trips that address the Asia Society’s four indicators of global competence.  We are talking about (1) Investigating the World, (2) Weighing the Perspectives of Others, (3) Communicating Ideas, and (4) Taking Action.  We are talking about bringing learning beyond the classroom, beyond the halls and walls of the school, and into the real world where students can observe possibilities expanding. 

So in order to tug at the heart strings of already generous donors, this year’s annual luncheon event sought the help of four very passionate and articulate first graders.  Eliud, Dayanara, Kale and Consola had attendees mesmerized as they shared their most recent service learning experience with anyone interested enough to listen.  Each child told the account of how their class raised money to help fund the Asian animal exhibit at the Denver Zoo.  (They raised over $1,000!)  They explained what a tappir, flying fox and clouded leopard are.  They shared with passers-by art work that students created and sold to fundraise.  And most importantly, they spoke eloquently and with sincerity about the importance of “giving back”.  These kids may not have the material luxuries had by other children these days, but what they do have is a heart for giving and gratitude.  And hopefully their giving nature was contagious… 

The plan for next year is this: Expose every DCIS elementary age student to cultural experiences in their own community and state, before launching them into the bigger and wider world.  For example… Perhaps a science lesson can relocate onto a local and sustainable farm.  Maybe a literacy exploration could bring kids to a poetry slam competition.  A social studies unit on Colorado’s history could easily segue-way into a student led excavation at the Garden Park Fossil Area in Canyon City, CO.   Simply stated, the possibilities are as endless as the sea and sky. 

I can go on and on about this wonderful fundraising experience last week.  Likewise, I could “talk the birds out of the trees” (as my grandpa use to say) about the value of experiential learning.  But in the end, I will let the below photos conclude my tale.  Should you have any questions about the DCIS Foundation Board or about how you can contribute or get involved, please visit their website at  

Thanks for your time and Adios!







Art Around the World II = A Great Success!

I am happy to report that our second big Art Around the World event was a great success.  I must confess my shock at the number of families who made it out for the event.  Initially I thought that having the evening of student work on display starting at 5:30, an hour-and-a-half after the end of the school day, would deter parents from attending; but boy was I wrong.  It was standing room only everywhere you went!  Check out the latest article about the evening in Viva Colorado!  (To read the article in English, just right click on the text and select “translate”.)

As you probably have read already, we had the visual and performing artwork of all students in grades K-2nd on display in various places throughout the building.  There were student performances of African folktales, dance showings demonstrating the lineage of breakdancing, songs about the Universe and the Earth’s properties set to djembe drums, and plays about how to make friends with people from other places who are different than you are.  I would say that we had well over 90% participation, a great feat for our community!

First grade students also raised money to support their latest endeavor, a service learning project to help further develop the Asian animal exhibit at the Denver Zoo.  The response from the community was impressive, our first graders raised nearly $100!  They are still working hard at it though, and plan to sell ceramics creations of their own at our upcoming Art Show at 3:30 on Friday, March 16th.  Don’t miss it!

To learn more about the evening, and to see some videos shot by our ever-supportive DCIS staff, please visit our school’s website at  Once there, navigate to the “Integrated Global Arts” page –> “Art Around the World” –> “Performance Videos”.   

To anyone reading this who attended the event… I would LOVE to hear your feedback!  Please feel free to post your thoughts here in this forum.

Now we are on to new things. 

Our third and final Session of our Integrated Global Arts program is up and running.  I am excited to introduce Miriam Tobin and Lars Ortiz to the DCIS family.  Miriam, a theatre artist, is working with our second grade students; and Lars, a classical musician, is working with Kinder.  Adam Buehler is back in action and working with our first graders.  More is soon to come on all of the exciting developments happening in our school and with our creative community of artists!

Until Next Time…  Adios!  ~TC

Day 104: We Have Been Selected for the Janus Student Art Buying Program!

This month Janus and the Cherry Creek Arts Festival have selected the Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS) at Ford Elementary to participate in their 10th annual Janus Student Art Buying Program.  This one-of-a-kind experiential art education program engages students in an in-school exercise to help them explore the many facets of art, and then enables students to apply their knowledge through a hands-on art-buying opportunity at the Festival where they will purchase artwork for permanent installation at the school.

 The DCIS at Ford is a Title 1 elementary school in the Montebello region that has been undergoing revolutionary changes to curriculum design and overall school structure. We are a “turnaround” school as well as an “innovation” school. This means that the school has been stripped of what has been chronically failing for years and is fostering a new commitment to make courageous changes that educators hope will be reflected in improved student achievement. One of the new inputs our school is undergoing is the creation and implementation of a new program called Integrated Global Arts. This program allows each and every student in the school access to creative strategies for academic learning. Unfortunately, the aesthetic look of the building does not yet reflect the passion and commitment of our school’s educators. Unfortunately, the hallways are still rather bare and visually unappealing. The hope is that by purchasing art for the hallways the school will become a more beautiful place to learn and grow.

The art-buying experience will take place on July 7th at the renowned Cherry Creek Arts Festival and will engage at least three students in an in-depth exploration of art and how it can reflect the school’s identity as an internationally themed elementary school thriving in urban Denver. 

 Because our school is a member of the International Studies Schools Network (ISSN) it is of great importance to us that the students select artwork that reflects the people, places and things around the world. In this way, all students can “see, think and wonder” about the places in the world that they would like to visit and those that they wish to learn more about. Likewise, it will be important to select local artwork that reflects what it means to live in the urban environment of Denver, Colorado. In this way we hope that all students will begin to explore and celebrate the similarities and the differences amongst us.

We are extremely grateful to Janus for selecting us as one of four recipients in Denver (public, private or otherwise).  I am very much looking forward to embarking on this creative journey with our students at the Cherry Creek Arts Festival this summer!

Con Gratitud,