Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 21, 2013
Brooklin School’s living wax museum
Students at Brooklin School take on the role—and character—of early presidents
by Anne Berleant
“My nickname is ‘Father of Our Country,’” George Washington told visitors to his display at Brooklin School’s presidential wax museum on January 25.
Usually known as Jarrod Chase, the eighth-grader was participating in a hands-on history lesson organized by middle school teacher Rebecca Turner.
Called a living wax museum “because they are frozen like wax figures,” the students “unfreeze when a visitor approaches, and talk about their presidents,” said Turner.
Students chose one of the first 19 presidents of the United States and, after researching their subject, created a visual and oral presentation on the impact he had on our country.
The students also dressed in character, or as first ladies to their chosen president.
“The funnest part was dressing up,” said Allen van Reidsen, an eighth-grader inhabiting the spirit and dress of Ulysses S. Grant. He found Grant’s severe gray jacket at Maine Military in Bangor.
“They do the costumes on their own,” said Turner, but the research happens at the school, using primary and secondary sources online and at the library.
During the three-week project, students “become an expert in one area of history,” Turner said. Wikipedia is not allowed as a primary source.
This is the third year Turner has had students create a living wax museum; last year, they became Colonial America travel agents, and the year before, Greek gods.
“It was a very focused project,” Turner said, and “a great opportunity for students to practice research and presentation skills.”
It was also “a friendly competition,” she added, with three mystery judges rating students on presentation, visuals and accuracy. Seventh-grader Leigh Brooks won in all three categories for her portrayal of Harriet Lane, niece to James Buchanan, “the only president who wasn’t married,” said Brooks.
“[Lane] never smiled for pictures,” she added, “So I might as well stay in character.”