Each year, Cheryl Martin's Grey Elephants class at Pumpkin Patch Academy takes a magical ride on their Polar Express train, a larger-than-life wooden train created by Martin's father. And each year, the destination remains a mystery to the 4- and 5-year-old students until they arrive at their final location.
This year, the tradition continued, much to the students' joy.
"This year our Polar Express traveled through South America, Central America and into North America, arriving in Andy's bedroom at 'Toy Story,' " Martin said.
Martin's father, Ed Bouvier, created all of the artwork for this year's "Toy Story" theme, re-creating the characters and the setting, right down to an exact color match for each item he made.
"When I was a little girl, about 10 years old, my dad's hand was crushed, so he is doing all of his artwork by painting with his little finger and his thumb," Martin said, noting that her dad enjoys every minute of his work for the school.
In past years, Bouvier has helped the students travel to Candyland, the Wizard of Oz and Disney by using his talents to create a new set for the classroom each year.
"We use this theme through the New Year to help teach our language skills, our writing, but it's also so that the students can pretend, just like in the story. Four and 5-year-olds need to be able to pretend, to imagine, to occupy themselves," Martin said. "Our learning centers are filled with 'Toy Story' books, puzzles and Legos for them to play with."
Martin said that each year, as soon as the current journey ends, Bouvier is ready to start his self-study of the next destination, spending time studying before painting so that his work is accurate.
"He watched all three 'Toy Story' movies and bought all of the books that are in our center now, because he wanted to make sure that all of the colors were exactly right," Martin explained.
And they are right, down to the exact shade of lime green on Buzz Light Year's space suit.
According to Martin, an unexpected treat to this year's destination has been all of the toys that students' parents have been sending in from the days of their own childhood. Given the fact that the movie features vintage toys, Martin said many parents actually still have those toys from their younger days, and have sent them in for the children to play with, making the set of "Toy Story" even more real aand engaging.
As the students finish up their current journey, Bouvier is ready and waiting.
"Once the New Year begins, he'll be asking me, 'Okay, so where to next?'" Martin said.