The fifth-grade GATEWAY students at Euharlee Elementary School brought history to life for their peers this week.
As a culminating activity, 13 fifth-graders in Lisa Wehunt’s gifted class presented a wax museum of prominent historical characters in four sessions, ranging from 45 minutes to an hour, Monday.
“About four years ago, I decided to do this with my fifth-graders because it incorporates all the goals of the GATEWAY program — advanced research, creative thinking, problem-solving and advanced communication,” Wehunt said. “Most of the students have been in this program for four or five years and have spent a great deal of time learning these advanced thinking skills.”
The students didn’t have many requirements to meet when selecting a figure.
“My only guidelines for this activity were that the person they chose to represent be a historical figure that made a significant contribution to our nation or world,” Wehunt said. “We had quite a variety of important people, from sports greats to political figures, explorers and inventors.”
The portrayals were Sam Carlsen as Elvis Presley, Kaitlyn Detscher as Molly Pitcher, Josh Evans as Henry Ford, Collin Faaborg as Thomas Edison, Bailey Hynes as Laura Ingalls Wilder, Knox Koontz as Benjamin Franklin, Jacob McDaniel as Babe Ruth, Rosy Moore as Annie Oakley, Joel O’Brien as Dr. Martin Luther King, Brayden Pope as Abraham Lincoln, Matthew Renner as Walt Disney, Caleb Underwood as Neil Armstrong and Lili Womack as Jacqueline Kennedy.
“Bailey Hynes is an aspiring writer,” Wehunt said. “She told me she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books in second grade and was inspired by the fact that Wilder’s first attempt at writing was a failure until she changed the way she wrote to first person.”
Joel said he chose King because he “made so many speeches that changed the way millions of people think.”
“Joel is very interested in different cultures and making a difference in the world,” Wehunt added.
Lili’s decision to portray Kennedy stems from her interest in politics, which is at least partially fueled by her grandfather, Steve Taylor, being the Bartow County commissioner, according to Wehunt.
“She and I often discuss local politics since my dad, Clarence Brown, was also Bartow County commissioner for many years,” she said. “She is very interested in politics, particularly women in politics.”
Wehunt said the students chose their characters and began conducting research and writing their research papers in March.
“Since they are only in this class one day a week, they spent most of that time writing their papers, including citing sources and editing; writing and memorizing their speeches; and creating their display boards and backgrounds,” she said.
Wehunt also said she always encourages them “not to buy costumes but to get creative with them” and with the props they use.
“They amaze me with their creativity,” she said. “One student [Kaitlyn] was determined to create a 3-D cannon for her Molly Pitcher scene. After several failed attempts and with the help of others in the class, she pulled it off. It was very realistic.”
The instructor also was happy to see the “amount of support and encouragement these kids give each other throughout the entire process.”
“For example, one student has a great fear of public speaking, but after the encouragement from his classmates, he was able to finish his speech perfectly, many times,” she said.
The students have to have a “great deal of endurance” to carry out the project, according to Wehunt.
“This thing goes on all day with visits from classmates, parents and administrators,” she said. “Even with a few breaks in between, it requires patience and even a fair amount of physical endurance.”
Overall, Wehunt was pleased with this year’s wax museum, which “gets better and better” every year, she said.
“My younger students look forward to it every year,” she said. “Some are planning who they want to represent by second grade.”
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