A wide array of famous people, both living and once living, paid a visit to West Hernando Christian School on Friday, April 23. Children in Mrs. Michele Durling's third grade class portrayed well-known and not so well-known figures in a “Living Wax Museum.” Among these people were a now 85-year-old marine biologist, a six-year-old child on the forefront of the Civil Rights movement, three presidents and a famous inventor.
This is the fourth year that Ms. Durling’s students have participated in this fun, creative and educational exercise. It was a great way for the children to learn in-depth about people who contributed something important to our society. They also utilized skills such as reading, researching and speaking, that they had been learning in class.
Unlike other years, the personages were all Americans because the class theme this year is “God Bless America.” Also, for the first time the students did their presentations outside because of Covid. The sixteen third graders spent several months working on the project. “The students reacted with enthusiasm as they began reading and researching about the American they were going to portray,” stated Ms. Durling.
The whole process involves learning about their subject by reading biographies and doing research on the internet and other sources, taking notes, writing several rough drafts and then completing a final polished report. The students listened to and read speeches in preparation to write their own first-person speeches in the voice of their chosen figure. They memorized their speeches and practiced with their classmates. The last step was creating a poster displaying various aspects of that person’s life.
One of the lesser-known figures represented at the Living Wax Museum was Mary Edwards Walker portrayed by Delainey Nibert. Walker was a doctor who treated Civil War soldiers and was even captured by the Confederates. For her heroism she was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, only to have it taken away in 1917 because she didn’t “qualify” for the honor. It was finally given back to her posthumously in 1976 – more than fifty years after her death.
Delainey commented, “I wrote about her childhood, adulthood and accomplishments. One interesting thing I learned was that she wore men’s clothes.”
Cadence Grubbs represented Harriet Tubman, who led hundreds of slaves to freedom through the Underground Railroad. “I learned that her real name was Araminta Ross and she lived to be 91 years old. She only had one child and she adopted him. It (the project) was hard, but I had fun and I learned a lot,” remarked Cadence.
Shane Galarza portrayed Sgt. Alvin York, World War I hero and Medal of Honor recipient. Shane is related to Sgt. York on his mother’s side. “The most interesting thing I learned was that his wife’s name was Grace and that’s my cousin’s name too,” remarked Shane.
Aden Strong had a chance to be John Adams and really got into his role, even cutting out a hole in the poster and gluing an artificial powdered wig to it so he could poke his head through the hole. “I learned that he was the first president to live in the White House and he helped write the Declaration of Independence. The part I liked best about doing the project was making the poster,” Aden stated.
Ivy Pham portrayed prolific inventor Thomas Edison. Her poster displayed pictures of Edison and some of his inventions, along with “fun facts” about the father of the electric light bulb. “I got my information online, in books and from my teacher. An interesting thing I learned is that he invented more than 1000 items. I worked on this about four months,” Ivy commented.
Deenanna Mullings portrayed Ruby Bridges, who in 1960 at the age of 6, became one of the first Black children to integrate New Orleans’ all white public school system. Her picture was painted by the well-known artist Norman Rockwell and appeared in “Look” Magazine. “People were saying very unkind words to her and even throwing tomatoes at her. She has a school named after her. I drew all the pictures except for one. My sister drew that one,” stated Deeanna.
Kyla Krueger decided to portray someone more contemporary - Sylvia Earle, a marine biologist who attended college in Florida worked in oceanography in the Clearwater area. Kyla wore a wet suit and even had her two tropical fish on display as part of her project. Perhaps we have a budding marine biologist here in Hernando County who will follow in her hero’s footsteps. She remarked, “The part I liked best was about the fish.”
The Living Wax Museum project is proof that history can be fun and interesting for students and can incorporate skills from other disciplines, such as reading, spelling, English Composition and public speaking. It's not just about memorizing facts and dates. It's about the people who shaped history and impacted their world.