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Tara Performing Arts High School sophomore Emma Towle works to build a model of a theater space out of sticks on Monday at Wonderland Lake in Boulder. (Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)
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Boulder’s Lucinda Holland, a sophomore at Tara Performing Arts, is learning about historical theaters, from those used by Greeks and Romans to those used in Medieval and Renaissance times, and then building her own models from natural materials.

“If I’m actually building a Roman theater out of little sticks and and clay, I’m going to remember it a lot better than if I just look at a model,” she said.

Plus, she said, she likes knowing that, even as theaters around the world go dark to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, models are popping up in area open spaces thanks to student builders.

“It’s really wonderful,” she said.

Tara Performing Arts High School, a private Waldorf school in Boulder that enrolls close to 50 students, is finding ways  to keep students mostly unplugged while moving to remote learning. The school is in its second week of remote learning because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teacher and leadership council member Catherine Barricklow said the school closed its campus March 13, when the Boulder Valley School District announced it was closing, but continued to allow nine students to rehearse for a play over the weekend. Then Sunday, Boulder County announced more cases and community spread and all rehearsals stopped.

She had about five hours to come up with a remote learning class for last Monday, she said, and decided to teach theater history to her ninth- and 10th-graders.

“It’s been an exciting challenge, in a way, to figure out how to deliver the content without technology,” she said. “I wanted to engage them and take them outside and awaken their imagination in a way that things on the screen just don’t.”

She made a video of herself building a Greek theater outside to get them started, then asked her students to make their own creations using natural and found materials and share pictures.

“I was so delighted to see the pictures that came back,” she said. “It has been so inspiring. Doing something with their hands and doing something creative, they have to really concentrate. The students have said this has really been a calming, grounding exercise that’s helped with the anxiety.”

Tara starts spring break next week, and school leaders have extended it for three weeks because a planned trip to New York City was canceled. At the request of students, they’re considering providing some additional activities over break,

School leaders also are still deciding how to handle the end of the year, when students typically spend six weeks working on an end-of-year, all-school musical.

Kiri Booth, a junior at Tara who lives in Niwot, had started a unit studying the medieval book “Parsival” with her class a week before the closure.

The assignments include writing a two-page paper and creating an art project based in a theme in the book. Using rubies as her theme, she designed a medieval royal dress.

She also is turning in summaries and themes through Google classroom, then printing them out to decorate and add to the textbooks Tara students create themselves. Other assignments have included going for a walk, then writing a report by hand and sending a picture of it to the teacher.

Kiri lobbied teachers to add video calls with the whole class, who agreed and started the calls on Friday.

“We’ve been really, really missing each other,” Kiri said. “The Tara education is a lot about collaboration and hearing each other’s opinions. We build off each other. I asked for some sort of collaborative thing.”

Along with contact with her Tara family, she said, what she’s missing most is the planned New York trip. She’s hopeful the end-of-year musical can still happen, noting she tried out for several bigger roles.

“In 11th grade, you start taking the lead and get to kind of step up,” she said. “I’m crossing my fingers. To have that canceled would be so huge for us.”

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