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1-25-21 — Candy Land Becomes Sweet Art Project

Jan. 25, 2021 ~ Originally invented by a schoolteacher in 1949, the board game Candy Land came to life at two Olathe elementary schools this winter. A life-size version of Candy Land brought joy to hundreds of elementary students during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the suggestion of a fifth grader.

Last fall, Havencroft Elementary art teacher Anna Huelskamp wanted to do an art project with neon and black lights. “I brainstormed with my fifth graders and one of the kids came up with Candy Land,” she said. “When I started looking into the history of Candy Land, I discovered that the game was developed by a retired school teacher during the polio epidemic. It seemed sort of fitting for this year that we came upon that as our theme.”

Regency Place Elementary art teacher Ashley Hutfles asked Huelskamp about her plans, and then each teacher put her own spin on this favorite children’s game as a substitute for missed field trips because of COVID-19. Both teachers organized their school’s students and several colleagues to create room-size versions of the popular children’s game prior to Semester Break.

Planning for the massive neon and black light-lit project took weeks at each school, and construction of lollipops, candy canes, gum drops, ice cream, and cupcakes required weeks in art classes. Every grade level focused on a different prop for areas like Gingerbread Cottage, Peppermint Palace, a candy forest or the candy castles.

“It was a joy to see the kids working like real artists,” Hutfles said. “They took a theme, brainstormed, created ideas and art, problem solved, and completed a final display! One of our fifth graders created gummy bear guards for King Kandy’s Castle.”

Staff at Havencroft and Regency Place set up their Candy Land exhibits after school hours.

At Havencroft, the neon-lit game involved an obstacle course full of challenges like tumbling past the gingerbread house and going through the rainbow tunnel. Their game expanded out of the gym and into the hallways on an interactive path to the music room where students played games and instruments. Next stop was the library where students turned in their game “candy card” for treats and watching a holiday movie. It was an hour and a half of fun.

“I wanted to keep the wonder and awe of the finished product a surprise for all!” Hutfles said of the Regency Place project. “I put construction tape and a ‘No Peeking’ sign on the door to add an element of suspense!”

Playing the game during a pandemic required safety protocols. At Regency Place one student was designated to roll the die and another student to act as the pawn to move along the Candy Land path. Each class had 30 minutes to enjoy the exhibit during the short time it was up prior to Semester Break.

“So much has changed in schools during this pandemic and a lot of our regular holiday traditions had to be cancelled, so this provided a great alternative,” Hutfles said. “I laid out a game path through the exhibit and called on other teachers to submit activity or question ideas.”

“While this was an idea that started in the art room, the whole specials team at Havencroft jumped on board and worked together to make it a really special day,” said Huelskamp. “We wanted to do something to make this year special for our students. Everyone, young and old, was gleaming with excitement from the experience.”

Both teachers look back on their unique projects with pride and fond memories.

“This is an example of the hard work of students and staff, and perseverance through a challenging time to bring fun and excitement to kids through art,” Hutfles said.

“The kids at HC had such a wonderful day that the specialists’ team has talked about doing this again for the kids,” Huelskamp added. “We have already come up with a few other ideas, like Winter Wonderland or North Pole.”