A night at the wax museum: Jackson Elementary students bring famous figures to life

When picking out a famous person to study for a class project, fifth-grader Brady Burgmeier wanted to choose someone interesting and with historical significance.

That’s why he chose Alexander Hamilton, an American statesman and one of the founding fathers of the United States.

But after portraying Hamilton during a Wax Museum Night on May 10 at Seymour-Jackson Elementary School, Burgmeier decided he wasn’t a fan of Hamilton’s long, curly white hair.

“It was cool,” Burgmeier said of the project. “But wearing a wig was just kind of OK.”

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All 110 fifth-grade students were required to pick a well-known person, dead or alive, who has demonstrated good character or made a positive contribution to the world. The students had to research their famous person using at least four different sources and write a short biography.

“The most interesting thing that I discovered is that he had a bad childhood but turned it around to do great things for the United States,” Burgmeier said of what he had learned about Hamilton.

Teacher Rachel Brock said there were several different parts to the project, and students learned skills they will need as they transition to middle school.

“We felt as fifth-graders entering into middle school next year, they needed some exposure to using researching skills, documenting credit to the source the information came from and writing information in their own words,” Brock said. “We discussed what plagiarism means and how not to copy and paste information.”

Besides the research and report, students also had to complete a bibliography of their sources, a poster featuring pictures and information and write a speech giving highlights about the person.

During the Wax Museum Night, they had the opportunity to present it all to teachers, classmates and family members.

Students were encouraged to dress up like the person to make their presentations more authentic.

“We hoped that students would gain knowledge on expectations of researching and writing reports because they will be expected to do so in the upper grades,” Brock said. “We also wanted them to experience public speaking. With this project, students had to complete multiple items and experience deadlines.”

It was the second year for the wax museum at Jackson, but other area schools, including Seymour-Redding Elementary, Emerson Elementary, Immanuel Lutheran and Brownstown Elementary, also have done them.

“We got the idea from a blog post where another teacher had posted her wax museum ideas and student pictures,” Brock said.

Student Claire Sanders said she thought it was fun to research Helen Keller, an American author, political activist and lecturer who was the first deaf, blind and mute person to earn a Bachelor of Arts.

“I thought it was fun and gave us a challenge to do research and find out things about history,” Sanders said. “I learned a lot about researching, learning and remembering facts and writing them in a story.”

She was surprised to find out that Keller traveled to many different countries despite her impairments.

Isabella Craig chose a more modern famous person to research, Alex Wassabi.

“He made YouTube videos that made the whole world laugh,” she said.

Because she liked her subject matter, Craig said the project was fun.

“It was exciting because you get to learn about new people,” she said of participating in the wax museum.

It also taught her how to write a biography and put the information she gathered in order, she said.

Brock said her students loved the project because they got to dress up and impress people with their knowledge.

Some of the students found out they were pretty good at giving speeches.

Burgmeier said he practiced his speech over and over to make sure he could remember everything.

The projects brought out the best in the students because they got to choose who they wanted to research, Brock said.

“Every student did an amazing job, and it’s fun to see them dress the part and take on the role of the person they chose,” Brock said. “We felt this was a great opportunity for our students to shine.”