- Associated Press - Sunday, April 10, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - In the 20 years since they became a performance art sensation, the Blue Man Group has taken its men with blue heads on the road to stages in New York, Las Vegas and Europe.

The trio is now headed to center stage in the classroom. Blue Man founders Chris Wink, Matt Goldman and Phil Stanton are the co-founders of Blue School, a private preschool and elementary school that they started so they could send their own children to a school that was creative enough for them.

After renting space in several Manhattan locations, Blue School is moving to a permanent home near South Street Seaport in the fall. The three original Blue Men will appear on stage Wednesday for the first time in 11 years to raise money for the school.

No blue greasepaint was in evidence during a visit to Blue School’s current home in the East Village, but there were non-traditional touches like a “soft room” with padded walls and foam structures to climb and a hallway drenched in trippy black light.

After a drumbeat summoned parents and kids to sit on the floor, a class of 4-year-olds shared what they had learned about the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building. A first-grade group left to explore the neighborhood, outfitted with cameras and reflective vests.

Teachers addressed their charges not as “children” or “boys and girls” but as “friends,” as in, “Friends, can we move to the rug for meeting?”

Three fish and the severed head of a fourth rested on plates in a kindergarten class; the children took turns touching them.

“If you put these fish in water would they swim?” asked teacher Molly DeGesero.

The children were unsure. The smallest fish was dropped into a bucket of water. It did not swim.

DeGesero explained later that the children had developed an interest in the life and death of fish after the inhabitants of a classroom aquarium died during winter vacation.

Kindergartner Beatrice White said she liked touching the fish. “The long one was slimy,” she said. “The medium one was, like, scaly.”

The children’s role in focusing on fish illustrates Blue School’s philosophy of student-directed learning.

“Children who either choose what they’re learning or are part of choosing what they’re learning do better academically,” said Goldman, the Blue Man founder who is the most involved with the school.

Goldman and his wife, Renee Rolleri, are on the school’s board of directors and are the parents of Rhyus, a first-grader.

With his wire-rimmed glasses and unassuming manner, Goldman looks more like a graduate student than a showman.

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