Students breathe life into history

Published 5:16 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

Pelham was inundated with famous people last week at our wax museum. Yes, Pelham has a wax museum — staffed by our fifth graders and located at Valley Intermediate School for a couple of days each March.

Instead of simply researching historical figures, Pelham’s fifth-graders become the characters of their choosing to bring their history lessons to life.

For two mornings in March, fifth graders circle the perimeter of the cafeteria with their foldable displays in front of them and their facts memorized to recite when they are activated via their play buttons. Stickers attached to students’ hands serve as play buttons.

Fifth-grade teacher Maria Beard said, “The division of the museum shows students that there have been a variety of leaders in our past that have made many different impacts. The halls included Presidents and First Ladies, Beginnings and Exploration, Helping Others and Improving Lives, and the final hall: A New Nation is Born.”

What is most impressive about Valley Intermediate’s Wax Museum is the research that comes first. Fifth-grade teacher Christy Downing said, “During the research portion of the project, students had the opportunity to practice research skills in both the library with books and in the computer lab with online resources.”

After the research, reading and planning, as the students became their characters, they faced what is reported to be the number one fear of adults — public speaking. However, actually becoming their characters seemed to give the students the courage they needed. Fifth-grader Brooke Bradley said, “Dressing up like Queen Elizabeth II helped me learn to speak to the public like she does.”

Fifth-grade teacher Leslie Cranford said, “The students love dressing up! It is also a wonderful experience for them to see and hear about all of the other historical figures.” Cranford’s student, Riley Taylor, really enjoyed her friend Maddie Averhart’s portrayal of Rosa Parks. She said, “I liked Rosa Parks because she stood up to someone.”

VIS fifth-grade teachers appreciated the parents who visited the museum.

Parents were impressed by the teachers’ organization, the students’ preparation and costumes and the authentic museum feel of the event.

One of Mrs. Downing’s students commented, “I felt like I was a real part of history today.” With the development of such excellent research skills and the opportunity to master the skill of public speaking, VIS fifth-graders are prepared to become the history-makers of the future.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at