Anyone who was anyone was at the Bauerwood Wax Museum this year: Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Abigail Adams, Betsy Ross, Pocahantas and many, many more famous faces in American history! For the past 15 years, students at Bauerwood have been participating in the Wax Museum project to learn about key figures in American history in a creative way.
Students have been researching and preparing for the Wax Museum since Spring Break and are responsible for “collecting as much data as they could through books and internet sources. Then, they took that information they gathered and constructed their speech, wrote a poem, designed a poster, and created a newspaper with articles that purposefully portrayed and represented their wax museum character. The idea was to have the students really understand their character and the challenges they faced.” says Kathie Berens, Bauerwood 5th grade teacher.
The performance aspect of the day first began 15 years ago with a 30 second speech that was performed in the hallway and younger students would come and “push the button” to hear the speech. Every year since that time, the project expanded and improved and now involves a 1 – 2 minute speech that is also performed with the entire class in front of parents and guests. Ms Berens adds that this is an important and anticipated part of the 5th grade curriculum. “This is now a tradition for all incoming 5th graders and something the younger students are already planning for. Due to the complexity of the tasks there are multiple common core curriculum standards that are met through this project from reading standards, writing standards, speaking and listening standards, as well as social studies standards. It culminates many learning experiences.”
Of course, American history is full of fascinating and important figures but the Wax Museum focuses on characters who “have lived during the time period of our year long study, from the Native American Nomads and Vikings through the Revolutionary War and the 18th century.” Ms. Berens also encouraged students to research their own character as long as they could prove how this individual impacted history and a handful of students took on the challenge, found their own resources and added a character to the list!
The process of of researching and memorizing an original speech and even dressing like the historic figure all adds up to a meaningful learning experience for students. “This process really allows history to come alive for them. Students are also excited to share out the, “did you know….” statements about their character and it gives them the understanding of the cause and effects of why things happened the way that they did and allows them to connect the dots. Probably the biggest “a-ha” moment comes from the girls who get to represent actual girls in the time period who did something amazing. Due to the fact that woman were held in the background during this time period they don’t hesitate sharing out the strength and impact one voice and one woman could do. It really becomes inspiring.”
5th grader, Avery Graham, was excited to present a new character to the Wax Museum through her own research. Avery portrayed Lydia Darragh, an American spy during the Revolutionary War and says, “I think this is a good way to learn because you learn about so many important people throughout history and you study one person and you get to know so much about that person. It’s a good activity where kids aren’t bored; it’s an interactive, hands-on project.” Avery contends that performing the speech in front of so many people was the most challenging aspect of the project but that her “favorite part of Wax Museum was the experience of doing the penny drop in the morning and little kids come up to you and they’re genuinely interested. They get to see everybody and how much work they put into the project and their costume.”
“The big importance of this event is really celebrating the challenge that these students take on. From all of the preparation and memorization to actually performing for their Bauerwood family and in front of a large group people the students grow and stretch like crazy. In the end they are exhausted but are truly proud of their accomplishments, which they should be. I have never had a student not be able to complete the Wax Museum performance no matter their disability, their fear, or their challenges. We have always found a way to make it work.” – Ms Berens
Way to go, Bauerwood 5th graders! Thank you for sharing what you learned and we hope you always remember this challenging experience!