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The '20s come roaring into history class with an artful touch

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"But once they made them, they were very possessive of them," says Katherine Lash, who is both a humanities teacher and a parent at the school. Her daughter drove 45 minutes to Flagstaff to locate a feather boa to complete her own costume.

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The day before the field trip, students kept asking one another if they were going to dress up; nobody wanted to be the only one. But when the day came, teachers were pleased to see how many participated and said they enjoyed it.

Where to find the time

As for the teachers, some had had their own reluctance when the program was first proposed. Classes have so much to cover that time away from the pre-planned lessons can throw a teacher off schedule.

"My feeling is: 'Yes, this is a few hours of class time, but this is a real chance for them to internalize,' " Ms. Lash says. "I think we lose the forest for the trees sometimes because we get so concerned about covering the material. But if it doesn't sink in, what good is covering the material?"

To minimize time taken from the traditional lessons and to maximize the program's impact, the artists and teachers worked together on designing activities that would fit into the existing lessons. "Dovetailing it with the curriculum is the key to getting the teachers involved," says Vince Fazio, director of an art school at the Sedona Arts Center, which helped organize the program.

Teachers ended up praising the group for planning and following up with them rather than just coming in to conduct the activities.

Funding the program was another challenge. Caldwell lobbied the city government for money for 18 months, to no avail. Mr. Fazio wrote grant proposals and ended up pulling together three years' worth of funding from several sources, including the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Arizona Community Foundation. The organizers also drew on volunteers from the community.

"We have a wealth of artists and retirees who have these backgrounds and experience," Mr. Anderson says. "But I think this program could take place anywhere, because any town has a wealth of experience."

Jennifer, the Red Rock 11th-grader, says that if schools in other cities can find the budget for it, they should all do a similar program at least once a semester, "because even kids who don't usually make an effort in school made an effort, and that's an amazing thing, when students ... get motivated."

At the end of this month, students will be back in action during a unit on the 1960s and the Vietnam War. They will study the historical facts and read Tim O'Brien's novel, "The Things They Carried." But students will also be learning about Pop Art from posters and slides, and working with Vietnam veterans on making a float on a '60s Jeep truck. The float will depict the hippie movement, the moon landing, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the civil rights movement.

And of course, all this work will have a soundtrack: music from Woodstock and clips from the '60s – John Kennedy at the Berlin Wall, Malcolm X on black power, the Beatles coming to America, Johnson escalating the Vietnam War and signing the Civil Rights Act, Martin Luther King's "I have a Dream" speech, and Neil Armstrong's moon walk.

For a world-history unit next fall, students will be immersed in the classical culture of Japan. They'll make kimonos and raku tea cups, construct a Japanese garden, and learn a tea ceremony.