Pine Grove Elementary School second-grade teacher Josephine Maher and her students took lessons in math, reading, writing, social studies, science and art, and turned them into a living "wax museum" on Feb. 19.
Parents and other visitors were invited to the school to see their children transformed into figures that spoke only when their buttons were pushed.
Seventeen children dressed as historic figures responded to visitors with memorized mini lessons about the characters they portrayed. "I learned a lot that I didn't know about," said parent Cynthia Young. "I don't know if I ever learned that in school."
Young appreciated that her daughter, Rachel, was learning so much, though. "I think it's good, because when they go on to other grades, they'll remember what they did and it'll be a learning tool for future book reports," she said.
Rachel Young, 7, learned a few things herself. "She said that DDT wasn't good for the world," Rachel said about Rachel Carson, the character she portrayed. Carson authored the book Silent Spring.
Mary Wood, a friend of Rachel Young's mother, was impressed with what she heard from each child. "I think it's amazing how much these kids have memorized," she said. "I couldn't tell you half the stuff the kids are telling me."
Maher wanted her students, whom she calls "stars," to learn across the disciplines while working up to this culminating project. In reading they researched their chosen persons. In math they studied timelines, examining who was born earliest, last and who appeared on money.
The history lessons were as diverse as the students' selections. Cameron Bayko played Abraham Lincoln, Gabriel Chambers was Benjamin Franklin, Skylar Charron was Betsy Ross, Jasmine Clemens was Elizabeth Blackwell, Felicity Cox chose Hillary Clinton, Shayla Hanna portrayed Christa McAuliffe, Alexis Hobbs was Amelia Earhart, and Cheyanne Nelson studied Clara Barton.
Malik Norton played George Washington Carver, Joseph Scudder portrayed Theodore Roosevelt, Dominick Sim chose Alexander Graham Bell, Bianca Soler was Sally Ride, Daylon Stark played George Washington, Dallas Strmensky was Helen Keller, Damian Tedesco portrayed Neil Armstrong, Rachel Young played Rachel Carson and Julianna Davis was dressed as Susan B. Anthony.
Science was discussed when the inventors, astronaut and environmentalist were researched. Writing lessons included invitations to parents and letters to President Obama. "We did lots of writing along the way," Maher said.
Less tangible lessons were included in the project, as well. As the children repeated their characters' short biographies, they practiced public speaking. A life lesson was working together as a team.
Julianna Davis, 8, who studied Susan B. Anthony, said, "I like learning about new people and stuff." She chose Susan B. Anthony, she said, "because she fought for women's rights, and she's a really, really good person."
"With this wax museum," Maher said, "we research together and explain why those people were so important to our history and how today might be different if they were not born. This gives children a purpose."
Maher also acknowledged the role the students' parents played. "I have the best parents," Maher said. "That's why I have the best students! They are simply stars!"