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EAST GOSHEN — East Goshen Elementary School became a temporary live-version of “Night at the Museum” as Katie Cloutman’s third-grade class turned into wax figures of historical or modern people Wednesday.
Dressed the part, including with props, the “wax figures” would come to life and tell the story of the person whenever someone would push a button pinned onto them.
“When I was 27, I had my first child,” said Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, also known as Mia DeVito. “But soon after my son’s birth, me and my wife went to Salzburg.”
Mozart featured his baton and even sported a white wig.
But “he” was only one of the 24 figures spread throughout the school’s library.
“I let them do this on their own,” Cloutman said. “They picked who they wanted to do and did all the research.”
Well, within a certain boundary.
“If I have a biography about them, they can do it,” said librarian Beth Gendron. “But I do have quite a few biographies, so generally, they get to pick who they want.”
With the ability for the students to choose who they want to be, there is a surprising variety of figures, from athletic superstars to musicians and historical people.
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“You never know who they are going to pick,” Cloutman said. “I suppose you could say some of them might pick sports figures, but there is a girl who picked Crazy Horse, a girl who picked Mozart and someone who picked Benjamin Franklin. That’s just interesting when they do that and even some of the stuff they come up with when they do their research. A lot of them go above and beyond.”
The students chose to become Franklin, Crazy Horse, Will Smith, Annie Oakley, Barack Obama, Mozart, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Howard, Cole Hamels, Tara Lipinski, Shaquille O’Neal, Pyotr Ilyick Tchaikovsky, Sidney Crosby, Dwight Howard, Albert Einstein, Molly Pitcher, Alexander Graham Bell, Abby Wambach, Amelia Earhart, Shel Silverstein, Chris Van Allsburg, Maya Angelou, Kevin Durant and Henry Ford.
The debut of the wax figures is the end to a long, seven-week process the students have been going through.
“We do it very pieced so they have time to sit on each subject and really process it because they aren’t old enough yet to say to them, ‘This is your person, go create a speech,’” Gendron said. “We take a whole class period just about picking a topic and what that means; then we take two or three class periods about taking notes and what that means; then we take another class period about organizing the notes in a way that they’re chronological, thematic or both; and then they have to practice reading their note cards as a speech.”
The annual project allows the students to take it upon themselves to work hard and, in a way, prepare them for the grades ahead.
“A big point of this project is for them to take ownership of the work they are doing, so we go through the process of teaching them how to choose a topic, how to select and write that information, how to organize that information and then turn it into a speech,” Gendron said. “At this age, we want them to take that leap of independence and this is the bridge toward the upper-grade level work.”
Along the way, amongst the research, the students also learned public speaking in preparation.
Not only were those in attendance to listen to the wax figures schoolmates, but also parents and family.
“We definitely prepared and had some kids read their speeches in class and we talked about proper public speaking rules — pausing to look up from your cards, trying to memorize your cards, using a loud voice,” Cloutman said. “That’s stuff they don’t practice a lot at this age. They did well.”
With the culmination of the end of the project and the approaching end of the school year, Cloutman is happy to see everything her students have accomplished.
“It’s just fun to see all of them get really excited about it,” she said. “They’re assuming that person and they did a great job. It’s fun to see them do this.”