Farmer Elementary students bring historical characters to life with wax museum

Fifth graders dressed in character and presented speeches using a first-person monologue

By Toni Konz Tatman | JCPS Communications

The fifth graders at Farmer Elementary School could barely contain themselves on Friday morning, just moments before their Historical Character Museum opened. 

Farmer Elementary students give speech during Historical Character Day at the school

"I'm so excited!" said Shayla Bockelman, wearing a long, floral dress and a bonnet while holding a replica of the first American flag in her hands.

It only took a second for her to introduce her character, Betsy Ross, when prompted.

Standing next to her was Baye Samba, who chose Phillis Wheatley as her character.

It's the ninth year for the annual event and for many students, it's a project they have waited six years to present.

"They've been coming to the historical character museum since they were in kindergarten," said Farmer's social studies teacher Christina Cornelius, who assigns the project to fifth graders each year.

Among the characters represented in the museum were Sally Ride, Anne Frank, Steve Jobs, Muhammad Ali, Albert Einstein and John F. Kennedy. 

Farmer Elementary student dressed as Betsy Ross conducts project about the historical character during museum day at the school

As part of the project, each student had six weeks to pick a historical character, conduct research and prepare a conversational speech using a first-person monologue as their script.

They then assembled costumes and props representing the historical time period during which their character lived.

"Some are very shy in the beginning, but I think one of our most important responsibilities as an educator is to build those leadership skills," Cornelius said. "This certainly builds their confidence with public speaking and taking chances and putting themselves out there."

Cornelius said she sends the note home about the project about two weeks before Halloween so parents can take advantage of post-holiday sales on costumes.

"Many times, they are able to go to their closet or their grandparents' closet and find the items they need," she said. "It's really neat to see how creative and innovative they can be."

The activity is a great example of the Deeper Learning initiative that is at the forefront of the district’s strategic plan. The framework was adopted by the Jefferson County Board of Education in June 2016 as a way to encourage students to be more independent and take a more active role in their learning process.

"This really connects them with what they learn in class; it brings their learning to life," Cornelius said.

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