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Florida greats come to life in 'wax museum'

Abigail Pons portrays former Florida first lady May Mann Jennings in the “wax museum” at Pine Grove Elementary School.

Courtesy of Josephine Maher

Abigail Pons portrays former Florida first lady May Mann Jennings in the “wax museum” at Pine Grove Elementary School.

BROOKSVILLE — After moving from teaching second grade to fourth grade, Josephine Maher wondered if she and her older students should create the wax museum figures she had made with her students for the past several years.

Some of her current fourth-graders and former second-graders at Pine Grove Elementary persuaded her that they should.

And so it was that the Star Wax Museum again educated and entertained the students in the class and all the visitors who stopped by to see it.

Maher's students chose historic figures from Florida, as fourth-graders study Florida history. The children researched and wrote summations of the lives of their choices, memorized the summaries, and found or made costumes to illustrate them.

Then Maher invited parents, relatives and community members to come by and see what her students had done. In costume, the children stood on the school stage wearing round, paper badges on their shoulders that when pressed, "activated" the "wax" figures, which then delivered their summaries.

This activity incorporates many fourth-grade standards, including reading, language arts, Florida studies, science (some of the characters were scientists), math (time lines) and writing.

Maher also pointed out the life lessons of working as a team and incorporating help from family members. Maher likes to keep families involved in children's education.

Maher had 21 students portray historically significant Floridians and one student, Sarah Scheider, act as her assistant. Christy Blevins portrayed aviator Jacqueline Cochran; Aystin Bunton was Juan Ponce de Leon; Coral Davis played Florida's first congresswoman, Ruth Bryan Owen; Gabriella El Yamani played Dade County Judge Mattie Belle Davis.

Tyler Fiedler portrayed Seminole Indian Osceola; Jesse Hampton was Dr. John Gorrie, father of refrigeration and air conditioning; Noah Hampton was civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson; Abigail Hernandez portrayed Florida's first female Hispanic judge, Margarita Esquiroz.

Brandon Hoelderlin was Thomas Edison; Jonathan Hoelderlin played James Audubon; Kaitlyn Irizarry portrayed Janet Reno; D'Anna Marlow played historian and writer Carita Doggett Corse; Breanna McAlpine was Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Leann Militscher portrayed women's rights activist Roxy Bolton; Arayana Pearson played African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston.

Abigail Pons portrayed former Florida first lady May Mann Jennings; Camden Richardson played Hernando de Soto; Heather Rodriguez was journalist and writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas; Oscar Soler portrayed showman John Ringling; Jacob Verrier portrayed developer and railroad pioneer Henry Morrison Flagler; and Julia Jenks played Beth Johnson, the first female Florida senator.

The students learned about their own characters but also their classmates'. Julia Jenks, 10, who portrayed Johnson, said, "I learned about Osceola. I didn't know he wasn't a chief."

Abigail Pons (May Mann Jennings) said, "I didn't know that Ruth B. Owen was best friends with Marjory Stoneman Douglas."

Brandon Hoelderlin, 9, (Thomas Edison) said he learned "that J.D. Audubon wrote the book The Birds of America."

Brandon's twin, Jonathan (James Audubon), was impressed by John Gorrie. "I never knew he invented a machine called a compressor," he said.

Florida greats come to life in 'wax museum' 05/05/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 5:43pm]
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