Teacher’s brainstorm brings Louvre to Katy school

Bear Creek pupils, parents treated to virtual tour

Betty L. Martin
Houston Chronicle

It might have be Mona Lisa’s indecipherable smile or the white-marbled beauty of the armless sculpture of Aphrodite.

And it might have been that Bear Creek Elementary School parents and pupils only had to make a short trip from home to experience these and other masterpieces of the Louvre.

But parent Stacey Vincent is giving rave reviews for a recent virtual tour of the Paris museum by more than 300 adults and children, mostly pupils in art classes taught by the tour’s host, Bear Creek teacher Lisa Sitz.

“Come Away with Me to the Louvre,” an evening featuring Sitz’s filmed trip through the museum plus a sampling of French cuisine and a few artsy activities, premiered Feb. 16 at the school, 4815 Hickory Downs.

The event was the result of a project that began last year when Sitz received a $4,500 grant through the Fund For Teachers foundation to record her actual trip to the Paris museum and create a program for her students.

“When everybody came in, we got little passports and boarding passes. (Sitz) made it like we were going on the trip with her,” said Vincent, whose 10-year-old daughter Savannah is in Sitz’s fifth-grade art class. “We started off with the food — croissants with ham and cheese, crepes with strawberries — then she welcomed us to Paris.”

Through video footage, Sitz took the “tourists” down the Louvre’s hallways, stopping at various art works. When it was complete, young assistants passed out candy that children in the audience used to form portraits.

Children also made wearable pens and magnets out of square-inch porcelain pieces Sitz stamped with the image of Paris’s famed Eiffel Tower.

“Savannah had a lot of fun with that. She thought it was great, especially making the little faces, and she got to eat the candy afterward,” Vincent said.

Sitz has what nearly amounts to a fan club among her students and their parents, Vincent said.

For Sitz, who began teaching in 1980 when she helped to open Cimarron Elementary School in Katy, the love of art is secondary to the joy of sharing it with her students.

“I took a break when my daughter was born and stayed home with her for 12 years, when I had a the Blue Bonnet Pottery Studio in Katy,” said Sitz, 50. “But besides making and selling pottery, I was usually teaching while I was there, so six years ago I came back to the classroom at Bear Creek Elementary.”

Sitz still keeps two pottery wheels at the school and uses them to help her students make sculpture art.

“I love art history and I have a history-based curriculum,” said Sitz, a former commercial artist for Houston’s Sakowitz store.

She had toured major museums in Paris and London before her 2005 trip, one reason she undertook the lengthy application process for the Fund For Teachers grant to create a project that would capture the Louvre on film and in more than 1,000 digital images.

“I came up with the project idea to do a virtual tour with hand-held cameras, where the kids are (mentally) walking with me through the museum — ‘OK, kids, let’s gather around and look closely at this Rembrandt,’ ” Sitz said.

Sitz, who has a 1977 art degree with an emphasis on sculpture from Trinity University in San Antonio, made the project interactive, with students keeping art journals and sketching the pictures or making notes about what they saw along the way.

“It was educational and it was a lot of fun for all ages,” Vincent said.