BROOKSVILLE — There were a couple of unusual features about the wax museum exhibit at Pine Grove Elementary School last week. First, the figures did not melt. And they could talk. A push of a button and the personages told visitors about themselves.
Plus, they were not made of wax. The figures on display Feb. 21 were really Josephine Maher's second-graders and they were learning about famous Americans along with a host of other lessons.
This is the fourth year Maher has used this teaching method.
"My wax museum helps visual learners as they read, research, see pictures, see costumes to learn," she said. "While students say their speeches, my audio students are in tune. They are listening and learning. My kinesthetic learners get to touch Susan B. Anthony's coin, the costumes and cards, so they, too, are learning."
The Susan B. Anthony dollar was part of Victoria Thompson's costume. She was dressed as the women's rights leader, wearing a long, navy blue dress, cuffed with white and including a long, white, tied neck scarf. Her hair was pulled back and the coin was clutched in her hand.
Victoria, 8, had a little trouble choosing a figure. She kept coming up with non-Americans until her mother made a suggestion. "My mom knew I liked money and thought I might like to be Susan B. Anthony," she said. She can't keep the dollar, though. It belongs to her grandmother. "I have to give it back to Mimi," Victoria said.
Maher relies heavily on her students' parents to help with this event. They provide the costumes and, in past years, have surprised her and the children with celebrations the day after the museum.
This year was no different, with the parents providing breakfast, lunch and an afternoon cake and ice cream snack the next day. The parents made a DVD slide show of the children, gave each his or her photo in a magnetic frame and prepared a signed frame of Maher and the children.
Becky Pons was at the living museum with a video camera and is one of Maher's biggest fans, calling her, "awesome." Pons' daughter Abigail portrayed astronaut Sally Ride, complete with helmet. Abigail choose her, she said, "because I thought it was cool to be the first woman in space."
In this election year, some famous past and present politicians were popular choices. Dakota Croft played George W. Bush, Steven Orjuela was George Washington, Brandon Hoelderlin portrayed Abraham Lincoln and De'Asia Smith dressed as Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress.
Brandon, 7, was dressed in a stovepipe hat, beard and long, black suit.
De'Asia, 9, picked Chisholm "because she's a girl and she ran for president and when I grow up, I'm thinking of running for president."
Jada Crandle was primly dressed in a jumper, short black jacket, tights, black patent leather shoes and glasses without lenses. She was a young Rosa Parks. She said she chose the civil rights figure because "my mom thinks I look like her."
Melinda Crandle agreed with her daughter. "I absolutely do," she said. "When we came up with the idea of doing Rosa Parks, I looked at her and said, 'This is scary. You look like Rosa Parks.' " While Jada was willing to play the inspirational figure, she insisted on portraying Parks as a younger woman, although there was some gray in her curly wig.
Dylan Masson, 7, was dressed as Benjamin Franklin and studied him for the most practical of reasons. "I picked Benjamin Franklin because I had a costume that he used to wear." Dylan said he wore the costume for Halloween. His hair was slicked back and he wore glasses for effect.
Other portrayed characters were Amelia Earhart, played by Chasity Blevins; Virginia Apgar, who developed the Apgar infant rating, portrayed by Gabriella El Yamani; Helen Keller by Georgia Fleenor; Thomas Edison by James Greene; Clara Barton by Shelby Hanshaw; Jonas Salk by Richard Heffner; Elizabeth Blackwell by Allison Holliday; and Neil Armstrong, played by Oscar Soler.
Paulette Lash Ritchie can be reached at email@example.com.