Waterloo Pupils Are Curators Of Their Own Museum

Special Education Class Amasses Collection Of Oddities

May 15, 1991|By Donna E. Boller | Donna E. Boller,Staff writer

It's one of those stories that sounds like it could have happened only in the movies.

West Virginian John Roby was a World War I doughboy in the trenches in France when a German bullet whistled in and hit him in the chest.

It would have killed him instantly if it hadn't been stopped by the Bible he was carrying in his shirt pocket.

Roby escaped injury that day in 1917, though a stray bullet claimed his life as the war was ending.

Seventy-four years later, the Bible, an angled slash onits brown fabric cover showing the path of the bullet, is on loan from Roby's family for Waterloo Elementary's first school museum.

Roby's great-grandson, B. J. Elliott, brought the Bible as his contribution to the collection of items that have personal meaning to the eight fourth- and fifth-grade boys in Judith L. Burt's special educationclass.

"I just think it's amazing," said B. J., 10, of Columbia.

The fifth-grader's grandmother, Genevieve Roby of Catonsville, showed him the Bible last Christmas and told him the story.

So when the pupils began to plan the museum, he decided to bring in the Bible and an arrowhead he had found along Goose Creek on the Eastern Shore.

The pupils are not mentally disabled, Burt said; they are in the special education class, which provides more structure than a regularclassroom, because of behavior problems.

The idea for the museumcame from Keith Zembower, who teaches Gifted and Talented pupils at Waterloo.

Burt mentioned to him that her pupils could benefit froma project and he remembered hearing about a similar museum in a school on the Eastern Shore.

"It has really been a nice thing in termsof developing respect," Burt said.

"Sometimes we don't have respect for our own things until we see other people say, 'Wow!' "

Danny Van Kirk, 11, a fifth-grader from Elkridge, grasped the idea. He decided to bring in the ivory necklace that his mother's employers brought her from India in 1959.

"I'd bring the thing that I'd get most in trouble for (losing), because that would be a valuable," Danny said.

He said his mother told him, "As soon as the museum is over, put it right back on and bring it home."

Burt and her pupils beganplanning the museum in January and introduced it to the other youthslast week.

Each item is accompanied by a written description.

The museum occupies 13 shelves in a corner of the school library, 10 filled with items brought in by the boys and three open for contributions from other Waterloo pupils.

The display includes a sword casing, coin collections, a letter sent by a Union soldier to his wife inNovember 1862 and a prayer rock.

Gregory D. Price, 11, a fifth-grader from Columbia, brought in the prayer rock. His grandfather gave the stone to his mother when she was 10 years old, and she gave it toGregory when he was 10.

Gregory didn't know the history of the rock or the small cloth bag that holds it. "It's just to remind me to pray," he said. He keeps it on his pillow.

"Sometimes I'll lay downand forget to pray and my head will go on the rock," he said.

He plans to give the rock to his younger brother Jerrie, now 5, when Jerrie is 10.

Nick Kindred, 10, brought in his Far Eastern coin collection. Nick, a fifth-grader from Columbia, received the 28 coins fromhis grandfather. They were brought to the United States by Nick's uncle, who served in Okinawa and Vietnam with the military.

But Nick's favorite coin is the John F. Kennedy medallion he acquired on a class trip to the Kennedy Center in Washington last year.

"It was aspecial class trip. You needed a lot of permission slips," he said.

When the pupils take their items home, Nick said he will put his collection back in its special place. But he can't say where that is. "It's a secret spot."

Burt hopes to have the museum continue, withrotating displays from various classes.

She is working on arrangements for another class to bring in items and hopes to set up the next display by the first week in June.

"We look at this as an ongoing feature at Waterloo," she said.

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