KAYSVILLE -- First-grader Maxwell Parkinson knows exactly how to paint and draw using the styles of Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Claude Monet, having learned about them from his Burton Elementary School teacher, Dennise LeBaron.
Each month, LeBaron teaches her students about a different artist and they try to duplicate the style.
The kids have recreated Picasso's style by drawing pictures of their faces, cutting them up and then repositioning the pieces.
They also have learned about Van Gogh's swoopy brush strokes and used syrupy paint to create the swirling movement in their pictures, imitating his "Starry Night" piece.
The students also recently finished some water lily pictures using tissue paper in an effort to replicate Monet's "Water Lilies" paintings.
Maxwell said his favorite artist to learn about was Rene Magritte, a Belgian surrealist who liked creating artwork out of ordinary objects used in an unusual context. LeBaron had the class draw pictures of their shoe and then turn it into something else.
Maxwell decided his shoe looked like a car.
"It was kind of weird, because we had to take our shoe off, but mine kind of looked like a Mario Kart car," he said. "I have so much fun doing art, because we get to be so creative."
Another student decided that because her boot was black and furry, it looked like a penguin. Yet another student created the Great Wall of China with her Magritte-style piece, because her boot had a long zipper down one side.
To LeBaron, though, the students are learning much more than how to turn a shoe into something creative.
"Of course it is fun to try new things, but what I am trying to do here is develop life skills," said LeBaron. "I want more than just learning reading, writing and arithmetic. I want them to take something with them."
LeBaron said she points out to her class that the artists they are learning about weren't appreciated for their art while they were alive, and yet now, their art is considered valuable.
"I want them to feel that whatever they produce will be appreciated now," she said.
The kids frequently compliment each other on their art, something first-grader Ashley Coffey said she enjoys.
"We have to tell our friends what we like about their art," Ashley said. "It makes me feel happy when people say my art looks good."
LeBaron said she knows those are the life skills they will be taking with them in the years to come.
"I am teaching them to see beauty in what they created," she said. "Maybe someone else's art looks different, but they can believe in themselves and what they can do and appreciate others' art."
LeBaron admitted she is not the best artist and is learning right along with the kids.
In fact, she said, her insecurities in art were what led her to start researching artists, and in the process, she decided her students could also benefit from learning about these creative people.