What happens when you combine history with a dash of Halloween? You get the BCACS Fourth Grade Wax Museum.
Posing as historical figures, fourth-grade students come to life with a press of a “button” on their hands. Laura LaLonde started the wax museum in 1999, which is currently under the stewardship of fourth-grade teachers Elizabeth Casterline and Ardis Vandenboss.
“It is an assessment of the students’ reading comprehension, writing skills, and speaking skills,” Mrs. Casterline said. “It is also a creative outlet for students who enjoy demonstrating their learning in a unique way.”
It all starts with a historical celebrity wish list.
“Some [students] already ‘know’ who they want to be, but we remind them that it is done in a lottery fashion,” Mrs. Casterline said. “They have to have two or three choices because we don’t want any repeats.”
Athletes, activists, princesses, and presidents are popular picks, but there can be surprises. This year’s museum had its first Phyllis Wheatley, the first published African-American poet.
“A lot of people didn’t know who Phillis Wheatley was until I told them about her,” Krystina Brutsche said.
After some research, students write and commit to memory a 1-2 minute speech.
“This seems like a nearly impossible task for some kids, but I never had a student who was unable to accomplish it,” Mrs. Casterline said.
Students then dress the part, often using wigs, makeup, props, and displays.
“A lot of us put a lot of detail into our costumes and speeches,” Gabby Melges said.
Teachers mark one hand of each student with a black circle. Still and silent, students wait until a visitor presses their “button”. Once pressed, these wax figures come to life, giving their speeches, before resuming their frozen positions.
“The confidence the students gain through this experience is amazing,” Mrs. Casterline said.
“It was great learning how to say a speech in front of all those people,” Alonso Campos said.
“I liked how we stayed frozen in between saying our speech,” Mary Sui said.
“My favorite part…was telling people how important these people are to our history,” Breanna Ingraham said.
“I liked when people told me that they love my character,” said Caleb Sebright.
Cameras clicked, visitors listened, and future BCACS fourth-graders got some ideas.
“We definitely tell the third-graders to look at the museum carefully because it will be their turn next,” Mrs. Casterline said.
We can’t wait!