Fifth-graders breath life into history

Published 5:02 am Thursday, April 12, 2012

[imagebrowser id=2933]

History came alive at Southgate Elementary School Wednesday.

Mary Lou Retton, Wild Bill Hickok, Sitting Bull, Emelia Brown and Benjamin Franklin were ready to talk about their lives Wednesday afternoon as part of Southgate’s annual fifth-grade wax museum presentations.

Email newsletter signup

Fifth-graders spent almost two weeks preparing, where they told fellow students, teachers and community members about important figures in history through a first-person point of view. Helen Keller talked about her advocacy, while Stonewall Jackson talked about his military service.

Students researched their historic figure, wrote a two-page paper about them, highlighted five facts to use as part of their presentation and created costumes for the project.

“They did everything in school but the costumes,” said Jer Osgood, fifth-grade teacher. Osgood started the project eight years ago, after hearing about a similar project at a teachers’ conference. It’s a yearly ritual for fifth-graders, though it has expanded each year. Osgood said the first wax museum had about 80 students, whereas this year 110 students from all four classrooms participated.

The fifth-graders seemed excited to play their historical figure and tell people about their history. For Peyton Ree, learning about famed English privateer and explorer Sir Francis Drake was awesome.

“I liked how his history really affected things,” Ree, dressed as Drake, said.

Ree wasn’t alone in his admiration for history. Makayla Wendroth had a blast learning about and portraying Ludwig van Beethoven, though she had heard only one of his compositions before.

“I have one of his songs on my phone; his fifth symphony,” she said.

She was surprised to learn Beethoven didn’t know his own birth date, but was fascinated to learn he had written nine symphonies.

Of course, designing costumes is also fun. Wendroth used some of her dad’s clothing mixed with her clothing, while Hannah Allhiser borrowed a dress from Belles and Beaus for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth I.

“I think she was a really inspiring person,” Allhiser said of Elizabeth, who ruled England during parts of the 16th and 17th centuries. Allhiser found Elizabeth to be the most interesting historical figure, and was intrigued by her life.

“She has a lot of interesting parts,” Allhiser said. “I didn’t know her mom was beheaded.”

Fifth-grade teacher Jennifer Hall called the event a fun opportunity to share what they learn with others.

Students will be graded on their report, their effort in making a costume, their presentation and their behavior during the event. Yet the lessons and the unique approach to history will stay, according to Osgood. An Austin High School senior is working in Osgood’s class this semester, and Osgood said that student remembers putting her project together when she was in fifth-grade.

“It has a significant impact on [student] learning,” he said.