DALLAS, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) — At Dallas ISD’s downtown CityLab High, a holiday tradition became a learning tool as students staged a unique ‘Polar Express’ event for younger scholars Thursday.

“We’ve been reading a book!” a Sam Houston elementary student exclaimed. “I really liked it!”​

Students at this DISD downtown ‘choice’ high school are interested in careers in architecture, urban planning and environmental science. Collaborative learning on the campus is huge, so students worked together for more than a month on the special project.​

“The story has a lot of meaning for a lot of kids… It did for me when I was growing up,” Junior Axel Martinez said. “So, I think it’ll mean a lot for the little kids that we’re working with.”​

Junior Jalah Dorris is an architecture student — but, today her red hat suggested another role.​

“They were like, ‘Oh my god it’s Santa’s helper!'” Dorris shared. “And that really put a smile on my face.”​

While the elementary school students thought the field trip was all about fun, they were actually actively engaged in reading comprehension, improving fine motor skills and writing, as they penned those notes to Santa. But, even that wasn’t the best part.​

“My older students: They got to put a project together and they got to see a project come together and that’s a skill they’re going to need all the way through for the rest of their life,” CityLab High Principal, Lynn Smith, said. “Very exciting for the kids.”​

All of the hard work and anxiety, it seems, was well worth it.​

“It all came together pretty good,” Martinez said.