More Than Performance
Mr. Davis believed that arts are not just about performance; they also solidify a student's knowledge. For example, when building rockets, students sketch designs in sketchbooks that illustrate flight's inner workings and scientific principles in much the same way Leonardo da Vinci did 600 years ago. Students also use sketchbooks to write thoughts down before writing poetry, to draw what they see in an experiment, or to record their observations on types of clouds.
Ultimately, Mr. Davis wanted the da Vinci Academy to be a place that recognizes that students learn differently and that there is no one right way to learn or demonstrate mastery. The arts are an integral part of being a life-long learner.
Following Mr. Davis' retirement in the Spring of 2006, the da Vinci Academy continued to grow and thrive while pursuing his original vision. In the Spring of 2007, after just the third year of being open, The da Vinci Academy won the prestigious National School of Distinction Award from the Kennedy Center and was invited to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. It was also recognized as a 2006 School of Excellence from the Colorado Alliance for Arts Education. Most recently, it was recognized as an Outstanding Arts Schools for the state of Colorado by Think 360 and the Colorado Department of Education.
In recent years, da Vinci has expanded its programming to include a program for ESL (English as a Second Language) students and one for CSD (Communication and Social Development - Autism Spectrum). Mr. Davis' original vision has expanded and continues to grow to match the students' needs, no matter their background, primary language, or learning style, and continues to provide them with a unique opportunity to learn through and demonstrate their learning in the arts.
During the past 15 years, The da Vinci Academy has built a Learning Garden and Outdoor Classroom. Over the years, its teachers established numerous clubs, including a Green Dragons Club that takes care of the Learning Garden while learning about environmental issues and gardening. They formed a Compassion and Kindness Club that supported another local elementary school. Another example is the Shakespeare Club that participates in the annual Denver Shakespeare Festival as well as many other arts, dance, and athletic clubs. The fourth graders take a yearly overnight field trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science to spend time in the museum while engaging in many hands-on activities.
In 2017 da Vinci was awarded a grant from Think360 that allowed for the collaboration with the local artist group Concrete Couch. Together the students worked with these guest artists to create a 3' X 10' tile mosaic mural near the learning garden. TdVA has also collaborated with such noted artists as Tony Ortega (murals) and Patty Smithsonian (puppetry) to create numerous and varied artistic experiences.
As da Vinci looks toward the beginning of its third decade of arts integration, the school community can look with pride that it continues to be a guiding light for other schools. There are now schools that focus on arts integration in many of the neighboring districts. The staff and administration are excited about continuing and future options of collaborating with those schools, other arts groups, and many local businesses to create a true partnership with the Arts firmly enmeshed in The da Vinci Academy's DNA.