News Feature

Brooklin
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

Leigh Brooks stays in character as Harriet Lane

Leigh Brooks stays in character as Harriet Lane, niece to James Buchanan.

Photo courtesy of Brooklin School

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.”

Cameron Torrey as Franklin Pierce

Cameron Torrey, a seventh-grader, as Franklin Pierce, discusses the impact of his presidency with visitors and, at rear, teacher Rebecca Turner.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Seeta John portrayed Abigail Powers

Eighth-grader Seeta John portrayed Abigail Powers, the first “to keep her job after becoming first lady,” said John.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Allen van Reidsen and Charlie Adkins

From left, Allen van Reidsen became Ulysses B. Grant, and Charlie Adkins, Rutherford B. Hayes at Brooklin School's presidential wax museum.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Graham Grant chose to portray Martin Van Buren

Eighth-grader Graham Grant chose to portray Martin Van Buren “because of his hair,” he said at Brooklin School’s presidential wax museum on January 25.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Crystal Forget chose to portray Louisa Adams

Crystal Forget, a sixth-grader, chose to portray Louisa Adams. The hardest part “was probably getting the real information,” she said.

Photo by Anne Berleant
Leigh Brooks stays in character as Harriet Lane

Leigh Brooks stays in character as Harriet Lane, niece to James Buchanan.

Photo courtesy of Brooklin School