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Taking a tour of Egypt

Art Literacy treats McKay Elementary to the sights and tastes of ancient land
by: Jaime Valdez Elsie Bradford shows off her Egyptian attire after an Art Literacy lesson inside a pyramid.

McKay Elementary School students recently returned from a weeklong Egyptian adventure, where they toured a pyramid, studied hieroglyphics, enjoyed a picnic on the banks of the Nile River and gained a new appreciation for the art, music, mythology and dance of the ancient culture.

With the help of a dedicated army of family volunteers with the Beaverton Art Literacy Program, the kids were treated to a memorable 'Tour of Egypt.'

McKay students spent the last month studying the art of the Egyptian culture and creating an impressive collection of about 400 original pieces during their Art Literacy class time.

The Egyptian-inspired artwork was then used to transform the school gym into an oasis June 3 on the last day of Culture Week that would allow the students to travel back in time about 3,000 years.

Second-grader Elsie Bradford got into the spirit of the event and worked with her mom to put together an Egyptian costume complete with braids, makeup, arm bands, a white flowing dress and colorful sneakers that lit up with every step she took as she moved from one destination to the next.

'I was excited for today because I like doing art,' Bradford said before moving on to one of two art stations set up during the tour.

She looked right at home in the gym with a 12-foot-tall pyramid serving as a backdrop behind her. Inside, 20 of her classmates were getting a history lesson from 'Cleopatra,' who used a slide show projected on the wall of the 'tomb' to teach her young charges about Egyptian history, artifacts and stories.

'I thought it was fun to hear about their history,' Bradford said as she fiddled with the gold scarab necklace she received following her tour of the pyramid.

As the second-graders filed out and kindergarteners marched into the gym, the excitement level spiked.

Ayelin Leiva jumped up with a squeal when she got her first look at the hand-painted murals of a sphinx, Anubis and King Tut on the wall. As the kindergarteners were split into groups, she could hardly contain her glee as she stepped into the pyramid and checked out a piece of an actual sarcophagus on loan from an antiquities dealer.

'That is cool,' her classmate Claudio Frausto said.

After the history lesson, Frausto was happy to share his thoughts.

'I liked the mummy and the pharaohs - they used to be kings,' he said.

His friend Jackson Fritz nodded his head in agreement.

'I like the pyramid, too,' Fritz added. 'There's like all this cool stuff on the walls and little statues of mummy cages.'

The two walked away talking about how one of the kings had a snake on his head.

Across the way, Chiely Collins was busy at work.

After using a paintbrush to add white strokes on a brown piece of paper, she looked up and asked, 'What do I do now?'

As volunteer Julie Pottratz helped another kindergartener catch up, Collins anxiously waited to move on to the next step of her art project, covering a symbol of an ankh with black paint and stamping it over the white lines.

With the encouragement of the volunteer, Collins flipped the covered symbol over and stamped her page applying pressure as she rubbed her hand back and forth to transfer the image.

'Wow, look at that,' Pottratz praised. 'Now take it over there to get your jewel.'

Collins gladly followed directions. 'Oh, that's cool, what are these?' she asked of another Art Literacy volunteer.

'Special decorations,' Cali Gerber said as she hot-glued a blue glass stone onto the project.

'I can't wait to go in the pyramid cause I hear it has stuff in it,' Collins confided as she placed her completed project on the stage to dry. Willing to divulge secrets, she admitted, 'I like all the animals' in Egyptian art.

As Helen Woller watched the action unfold in the gym, she beamed with pride.

'This is a family affair,' said Woller, who serves as the volunteer coordinator for the Art Literacy Program at McKay. 'We had so many people willing to give of themselves to make this all happen.

'I hope the kids take away an appreciation of art. I hope they will love learning about art, become interested in developing their own artistic talents and discover that art is achievable. Most of all, we want to make art fun and, of course, turn out great projects for the kids.'