District 192 students create living wax museum

What do Sally Ride, Albert Einstein and the Crocodile Hunter have in common?

They’re all people who made a positive difference in the world.

Last Friday, North Trail Elementary students dressed up as these famous figures, and others, for their “wax museum” project.

The project introduces the concept of biographies to students. Teachers asked students to choose a deceased person who made a difference and to research that person for about a month.

Once the students had enough information to make a one-minute speech, they created and memorized a script that they recited during the wax museum presentation.

During a visit to North Trail’s wax museum, parents filed into the cafeteria. All the fourth-grade students sat in silence as their character, their heads bowed.

A girl with braids and a bonnet remained still until a nearby “button” was pressed — in this case, a pile of books. She then sprang to life and recited a brief history of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Throughout the cafeteria, other students were doing the same.

Each had a unique button that corresponded to their figure. For example, a student dressed as Steve Irwin had a plush crocodile for his button, while another dressed as Sally Ride had a toy space shuttle.

According to fourth-grade teacher Diana Kell, who first introduced the wax museum project to North Trail six or seven years ago, the project is an interactive way to learn about biographies.

“It’s writing, it’s speech, it’s drama because they all dress up. And so we just thought it’d be a great cumulative assessment for them to learn about biographies and pick a specific person,” Kell said.

Since its inception, the project has undergone some slight changes. The teachers used to let students choose any deceased historical figure, but decided to change that policy this year.

“We used to have it where it was kind of wide open, and then we got kind of really random people. So now we just have a list and they can pick from the list people that had a positive influence in the world,” Kell said.

Another reason the school moved to a teacher-approved list is they wanted to be sure students could find enough information on their figure. Fourth-grade teacher Kelly Galarneau said that students sometimes had a hard time finding grade-level, kid-friendly materials for their research.

If a student wanted to do a project on Herb Brooks, for example, they might find a library book, but “it would be 437 pages long and written at an adult reading level,” she said.

This year, the teachers at North Trail made a list based on what resources they already had in their media center and classrooms to ensure that students could research effectively.

Even chapter books can sometimes be “overwhelming,” Galarneau said, because for many fourth-graders, this is their first time researching in-depth and writing a research report.

“Kids have a hard time narrowing down what is and what isn’t important — this is kind of their first experience with having to do that. So we try to have enough resources available that are accessible for a fourth-grader on their first research adventure,” Galarneau said.

Though the presentation aspect can be nerve-wracking for some students, they seem to enjoy it every year, Kell said. Parent involvement is also key, she said, because parents are responsible for costumes that bring the figures to life.

“(The students) are nervous but they’re so proud of themselves, and we’re just so proud of them that they pull it all together and do a wonderful job. We really credit the parents for getting involved because that’s a big part of it. … We do so much appreciate them following through on that for us,” Kell said.

Though North Trail Elementary and Meadowview Elementary already had their wax museum presentations, two other district elementary schools will put on their museums soon.

Farmington Elementary will present its wax museum 2-3 p.m. March 8 and Riverview Elementary will present its 1:30-2:30 p.m. March 15.

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