Wax Museum: Not So Frozen in Time

Posted on 10 April 2009

Asking a group of ten-year-olds to hold a pose for more than 30 minutes might seem like an impossible feat, but each year the fifth-grade students at Sag Harbor Elementary willingly freeze in dramatic positions for the annual Wax Museum. Since the program was started, nearly 14 years ago, fifth-grade students have selected one famous historical figure to research, write a report on and ultimately impersonate in the culmination of the project – the museum gallery.

As friends, teachers, family members and fellow elementary school students walked through the gallery this year, they have might noticed a few changes to the traditional format for the Wax Museum. Through the use of PowerPoints, updated reports and the selection of computer-oriented characters, technology seems to be shaping, and changing, the Wax Museum.

“From the start of the project to the finish the kids are using computers,” said teacher Kate Berkoski. Although students must initially select a book on their chosen historical figure, she said children often draw upon Internet sources for their research. To create the backdrops, the fifth-graders find images from various websites and grid it onto the backdrop, before painting it in art class.

The report is now structured in smaller bits of information, describing the character’s early life, inspiration, claim to fame and a reflection section for the student. Teacher Jeff Reed reported that as technology becomes more ubiquitous he finds the duration of lessons must be shorter and packaged in smaller chunks of information, like the reports.
This year, three Mac computers were set-up in the hallway, for attendees to enjoy before or after the gallery, and displayed PowerPoints made by the children.

The “Who Am I?” PowerPoint’s were a sort of game, where little facts about a person are popped up on the screen before their name and image were revealed.

Students also chose some interesting, and unlikely, figures to portray, like Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay, and Jonathan Ive, the lead designer of the Ipod and Iphone. Fifth-grader Alex Mega selected Omidyar because he had previously purchased and sold trading cards on eBay.

However, the classic historical characters, like Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln and Leonardo Davinci, could also be found at the museum.

Whether a student chooses a contemporary figure or a classic character, the fifth-grade teaching team hopes the core values of this interdisciplinary project remain the same.

“We want the children to look at the essence of a person’s life, to see what obstacles they overcame and what was their path to greatness,” said teacher Jeff Reed. “They all have the power to be great.”

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