Johnny Cash and Tina Fey? Millcreek Elementary’s interactive wax museum brings characters to life

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By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

Johnny Cash, Tina Fey, and Stephen Hawking dropped by The Academy for Leadership at Millcreek Elementary this week. So did Neil Armstrong, Frida Kahlo, and Paul Revere.

Well, actually, they were part of the living wax museum presented by fifth-graders. The interactive exhibition featured more than three dozen influential figures from past and present.

Eleven-year-old Tinley Easton portrayed Jane Goodall, a primatologist known for her work among chimpanzees in Tanzania.

Sacagawea, Stonewall Jackson and Neil Armstrong characters waited to make presentations to Millcreek students (Photo Provided)

“I love monkeys and she studies monkeys, so it’s a good fit for me. I’ve always thought she was really interesting,” Tinley said.

She also considered Helen Keller and Mother Teresa, but stuck with Goodall because she admires the researcher’s independence and persistence in following her passion. For her museum exhibit, Tinley dressed the part and used a small stuffed animal as her main prop. She also designed a poster as a backdrop, with lush trees and photos of Goodall in the center.

“She loves nature and considers herself a part of nature,” Tinley explained.

As students from other grades rotated through the gym, the fifth-graders stood motionless as they waited for someone to press a paper button, signaling them to start their brief oral presentations. Some students had memorized their biographical information; others used notecards with bullet points. One key was staying in character and remembering to speak from their figure’s point of view.

“We’ve practiced, so it was easy,” according to 11-year-old Bianca Flores.

Bianca spent the morning as Sacagawea, a Native American who helped explorers en route to the Pacific Ocean.

“I was enrolled by the Lewis and Clark expedition because of my ability to communicate in many languages,” she said, using first person. Her poster illustrated the forests, mountains, and lakes the group encountered, as well as the four seasons. “Sacagawea was a big inspiration and was very brave. She’s an awesome role model,” said Bianca, who had braided her hair and cradled a swaddled doll.

The figures were grouped by genre, such as actors, musicians, athletes, and presidents. Some students portrayed a historical figure they had studied in class, while others channeled modern characters – well-known and not so famous.

“It’s as diverse as our (school) population, which is awesome,” said teacher Julie Serey.

From preparation through presentation, this project touched on several skill areas – writing, speaking, and listening, as well as math and art. The fifth-graders also tailored their speeches to the age of their audience. Serey was pleased by their overall effort during the final week of school.

“It allows these students the opportunity to teach themselves or teach each other,” she said. “Every person could shine – whether through their backdrop, speech, theatrics, or props. It’s a great way to highlight every child’s successes and achievements.”

“They took ownership and pride in it, which really got them excited,” Serey added. “I want them to look at the entire museum and see how we’re a community. We all chose different people, yet we all resemble each other. At the end of the day, they’re Millcreek Lions.”

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools

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