QUINCY -- Lincoln-Douglas Elementary School turned into a jungle one day last week after school.
Tied in with studying French artist Henri Rousseau, students in an after-school art program tried creating their own versions of his famed jungle paintings.
Led by Becky Hoskins with the Quincy Art Center, the students sketched monkeys and parrots before choosing another animal to draw. Elizabeth Ohnemus added a lion to her sheet of paper while Olivia Otney carefully sketched a snake and a lizard.
Adding watercolor pencil, then a paintbrush dipped in water turned the sketches into colorful paintings.
"My favorite thing to do is art," said Olivia, a second-grader. "It helps me make friends. At recess, if we stay indoors, people ask me to make art for them."
Studying Rousseau followed sessions on scientist, artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, with the students creating their own version of his Universal Man and a flying machine.
"It's fun," third-grader Kenndol McIntire said. "You get to do all these projects to take home and show your parents."
Kindergartner Jackson Biswell created a jetpack flying machine for his "person" and wouldn't mind having one of his own someday.
"I like to make my project," Jackson said.
The weekly hourlong program provides an introduction to art, something not offered in the Quincy Public Schools elementary curriculum until fourth grade, to about 18 students at Lincoln-Douglas. The after-school program also is offered at Madison School, and Blessed Sacrament, St. Francis and St. Peter schools.
"There's so many things you can learn from art that apply to all different areas of life. One of the biggest ones is not being afraid to try something new and using critical thinking skills to solve problems," Hoskins said.
"(By giving) kids that spirit of fearlessness when it comes to learning and trying new things, they can take that on to higher education and their careers. Besides, art is fun. It's creative. It gets them away from the screen, gets them engaged with other kids, engaged with their own mind and creativity."
Offering an additional creative outlet for Lincoln-Douglas students was a goal for Danyelle Trexler, pastor of the nearby Melrose Chapel United Methodist Church. She heard about the after-school program, took the idea to the school's PTO, and saw it launch this semester.
"We're hoping to do this again next year, just to continue to supplement the arts," Trexler said. "Kids learn so much about themselves and about their world through art."
Most weeks, Trexler is at the school to help out with the program -- part of a growing partnership between Melrose Chapel and the school.
"We are partnering in a variety of different ways to just try to build a relationship with the school and serve," she said. "Wherever I'm at, I think partnering with schools is essential."
Church members, for example, provided child care for PTO meetings, served as "special people" for students whose parents or grandparents couldn't attend an activity, and helped serve food at the school's recent Spring Fling.
"Some of the volunteers don't have grandkids in school, but they really enjoy it," Trexler said. "They get a lot of joy out of it."
So do the Lincoln-Douglas students, who also practice reading aloud to church members.
"Anytime you can extend the school community into the outside community, it's another opportunity for students and faculty to build relationships within the community," Lincoln-Douglas Principal Brian Trowbridge said. "The more adults you can get involved, it really does increase the awareness of how important that learning opportunity is for students."
Partnering with the Quincy Art Center for the after-school program, and Quincy Community Theatre for special programs also expands the school's fine arts offerings.
"At K-3, we have to go out of our way to find creative ways to create opportunities for the arts inside the classroom," Trowbridge said. "We'd been kind of eyeballing the opportunity for us to provide this type of service here even in the old building, but we thought it was more appropriate once we got into the larger building."
The reasons behind offering the art program didn't matter to the students busy working on their projects.
"It lets you do fun things," third-grader Riley Rettemeyer said.