Students bring history to life SOUTHEAST -- Sykesville * Eldersburg * Gamber

FACTS IN WAX

February 26, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A child takes on the persona of a famous athlete and crouches tensely in the racing blocks, ready to run for the gold.

Push a button and the figure comes to life.

"Hello, I'm Jim Thorpe, the world's greatest athlete," says Tim Chambers.

Next to Jim, Michelle Freeman, in a white habit and veil, tells visitors about Mother Teresa's work with the poor in India.

Tim, Michelle and 136 other third-grade students at Freedom Elementary School became models of their favorite figures yesterday.

The 8- and 9-year-old children dressed in costume and surrounded themselves with props.

Sarah Kraig built a plane out of cardboard and donned a bomber jacket. She began her speech with Amelia Earhart's last words.

Ashley Doerr leaped into a "perfect 10" as gymnast Nadia Comaneci. "How are you?" asked Juliann Johnston, playing Florence Nightingale.

"Facts in Wax" drew a large audience of parents, siblings and schoolmates. Many of the youngest children ignored the "Please don't touch our wax figures" signs posted among the living exhibits.

"Let's go hear what Jacques Cousteau has to say," said one mother. "He has the greatest costume."

Ian Macready had a wet suit, goggles, double air tank, fins and promises of new ways to explore the ocean.

The "museum" was the culmination of biography studies.

"We spend about a month on the unit," said teacher Lisa Starkey. "The children select a favorite character. Then, they research and report on the person."

The reports and the rehearsals for museum day give all the children character insights, she said.

"We let the children select, and their choices run the gamut," said teacher Wendy Weaver. "They prepare their costumes, a short speech and poster with information on their character."

Dressed in a black smock and beret, Danny Petruccelli dabbed at the paint on his easel. "I want to be a painter, so I chose Rembrandt."

The "figures" followed their instructions: Don't break out of character. They posed silently and without so much as a blink until visitors pressed cardboard buttons on the exhibits.

"Bonjour, I am Joan of Arc, the first woman knight," said Maggie Wonderlich, clad in armor and brandishing a sword.

"Do you know who the first man on the moon was?" asked Joseph Grosso. "Me! I'm Neil Armstrong."

In a white flight suit and carrying an American flag, Joseph was prepared for his moonwalk.

Ashley Howard braided her hair and donned moccasins and a plain tan dress. Her papoose slept on a deerskin rug as she spoke of Sacagawea, an American Indian who explored the West with Lewis and Clark.

Matthew Reese and Adam Bengermino spoke in unison as the Brothers Grimm, writing with quill pens as they told tales.

Leslie Edwards had to correct many a misconception about her character, Ann Bancroft.

"I am not the actress," she said, pointing to her dog sled. "I went to the North Pole."

Jonathan Fitzgerald thoroughly researched Paul Revere. With a little help from his electrician father, he built a bell tower complete with lanterns. He added a silver candlestick and quill to his exhibit.

"Paul was a silversmith and he wrote hymnals," he said.

After about 40 minutes of posing and oratory, "our figures were melting," said Ms. Starkey. The children went back to the books.

Many were reluctant to leave their characters; Janie Lebherz worked on her lessons with her Laura Ingalls Wilder sunbonnet slipping from her head.

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