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Bringing history to life

White Oak second graders portray historical figures in ‘wax museum’

Sophie Hipes represents Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman in White Oak Elementary School’s wax museum.
Sophie Hipes represents Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman in White Oak Elementary School’s wax museum.

If you could go back in time and experience the life of one historical figure, who would you choose? 

George Washington, Albert Einstein, Cleopatra, Rosa Parks, Ginger Rogers, Dr. Seuss, Steve Jobs, Walter Payton, Marilyn Monroe, Helen Keller, John Lennon, Michael Jordon, and Thomas Edison were just a few of the historical figures second graders at White Oak Elementary School choose.

Each year, the entire second grade at White Oak Elementary School completes a project called The Wax Museum.

The wax museum project consists of four major steps. The first step of the project is for the student to find a historical figure that interests them. The historical figure can be of the past or present, but should match the student’s own personality and interests.

A few historical figures that Mrs. Farmers class chose were Betsy Ross, Shirley Temple, Dick Butkus, and Annie Oakley.

Next, the students, along with their parents, need to research the chosen figure and compose and memorize a factual speech based on their findings.

After the speeches are complete, they are turned in and approved by the second-grade teachers.  A few of Mrs. Dzelil’s students researched Georgia O’Keeffe, Joe Montana, Queen Elizabeth, and Steven Kellogg.

The third step is for the student to create a poster board display on the historical figure they have chosen. Mrs. Marizza’s classroom was filled with colorful display on Chief Shabbona, John F. Kennedy, Ann Bradstreet, Steve Irwin, and James Naismith.

The final step of the project is the most fun of all for many. Each student invites friends and family to attend the Wax Museum presentation, hosted in each second-grade classroom.

When I arrived at the second-grade Wax Museum, I walked through three of the six classroom museums. Upon entering the museums, I saw 20-something students dressed as their chosen figures, standing still as a statue next to the poster board creation of facts that they had each created.  Each statue had a button made of a sticker next to them that I was instructed to push if I desired to hear about the personality they were representing.

My first encounter was with Sophie Hipes, who was decked out in gymnastics gear complete with Olympic medals. Sophie was representing  Aly Raisman.

Raisman is an American artistic gymnast who was captain of the gold medal-winning U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics and individually won a gold medal on the floor and a bronze medal on the balance beam.

Sophie delivered a flawless minute-long speech that gave me facts about this gymnast she looks up to.
I asked Sophie why she chose Aly and she told me that she loves gymnastics. 

Next, I bumped into Sunshine Farmer, who was portraying Ginger Rogers.  When I pushed Ginger’s button, it was no surprise why Sunshine would pick her as a historical figure to whom she relates.

Ginger Rogers was an American actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in film, and on stage, radio, and television throughout much of the 20th century.  Sunshine effortlessly performed a tap number while informing me of intriguing facts about Ginger Rogers’ life.

The final statue that I encountered at the Wax Museum was chosen by the student not only because of similarities in their personalities, but because they are actually distant relatives. Joy Dudley chose to transform into Ann Dudley Bradstreet.

Anne Bradstreet was the first poet and first female writer in the British North American colonies to be published. Her first volume of poetry was “The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America,” published in 1650. Joy told me that she chose Anne Bradstreet not only because they were distant relatives, which she thought was neat, but also because she shares Anne’s love of poetry. 

As I traveled through the halls of the second-grade Wax Museum at White Oak Elementary School, I was beyond impressed with the entire project.

Second graders not only chose great historical figures to represent, but also completed very interesting research, dressed the part, and, most impressively, performed speeches from memory in front of total strangers with ease.

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