Fifth-graders take on personas of historical figures

Children at Cromwell Valley Elementary study characters, then dress up as them as part of wax museum

November 27, 2010|By Mary Gail Hare, The Baltimore Sun

Benjamin Franklin arrived with a kite outlined in lights. At the flip of a switch, the lights went on and the character listed his many accomplishments. Adolphe Sax, dressed in formal attire, spoke of his career in music. Amelia Earhart expounded on her flying technique, and Ginger Rogers offered details from her life in film.

They were, in reality, fifth-graders who each took on a different persona for the annual wax museum at Cromwell Valley Elementary in Towson. Costumed and accessorized historical, literary, sports and entertainment characters filled the school cafeteria and gym Wednesday.

The museum resulted from weeks of research that began after the students chose their characters. They offered their younger schoolmates details of a well-known, or sometimes little-known, figure and asked "Who am I?"

"They all picked people who piqued their interest, not necessarily the most popular people," said fifth-grade teacher Flo Falatko. "We are all learning from these kids, who so embraced this project."

Nathan Kuessner, a fan of the outdoors, portrayed John Muir, who helped establish America's national parks. Stephanie Curriero came across the life of Edwin Hubble while reading about astronomy. She asked students to peer into a telescope before she gave her report.

Visitors had to cast a ballot before Adabelle Xie gave hints about her character. "Susan B. Anthony is important because she gave woman all those rights," Adabelle said of the civil rights leader.

Some, like Luca Cellucci's Sitting Bull, were easy to guess. He wore foxtails on his moccasins and beads around his neck and carried a coup stick.

"I learned about Little Big Horn," Luca said. "I learned Sitting Bull was a determined man who didn't give up."

As soon as Alex Haas began reciting "The Raven," visitors knew he was channeling Edgar Allan Poe. Most identified Garret Parson's Ben Franklin. "I think it was because of the kite," he said.

The top hat and beard gave away several Abe Lincoln look-alikes, and the flag, needle and thread readily identified Betsy Ross. But few knew Adolphe Sax, the inventor of the saxophone, played by Abhinav Khushalani.

"He was an interesting choice, and I thought people could learn a lot about him," said Abhinav.

Jonathan Brooks donned a white wig and surrounded himself with Maryland memorabilia for his portrayal of George Calvert, the first Lord Baltimore. Still, many mistook him for George Washington.

"Most people don't know a lot of Maryland history," Jonathan said.

Nathaniel Brooks prepared a long list of Benjamin Banneker's accomplishments, but few children identified him.

"I gave as many clues as I could," Nathaniel said. "I even mentioned his name with his book."

Keira McNulty studied the life of Deborah Sampson, a woman who posed as a man and fought in the Revolutionary Army. Her clues, though many, did not help those guessing.

"Most people haven't heard of her," said Keira. "I liked her because she wanted to do daring things."

Chris Diehl, whose daughter, Kelly, played horror film actor Boris Karloff, said Keira stumped everyone and taught them, too.

"Everyone can learn a lot about history and children's creativity here," Chris Diehl said.

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