Presto...kids turn back time
They were poised. They were professional. They were historical figures.
Sixty-five students from the three fifth grade classes at Cedar Hill Elementary School posed as some of the most famous Revolutionary War and figures characters from colonial times in a “wax” museum at the school Friday afternoon.
While expanding their Internet skills and independent study methods, students got the chance to act as past presidents, political figures, even military heroes, at the educational exhibit.
With the push of an orange “button” located on the outside of their hands, they divulged interesting facts about “themselves.”
But, they expressed their excitement for the assignment exclusively to the press and spoke of the historical figures with enthusiasm and confidence.
“I was excited because playing a male was something different,” said Rachael Ferentinos, who was Nathanael Greene for the day. “Learning all the stuff about Nathanael and all the other characters and sharing the information with everyone else was the best part. Peter Stuyvesant lost his leg in a battle and had to be fitted for a peg leg and James Madison had a college named after him.”
Michael Ryan, 10, who posed as William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, agreed. He called the project a “great experience.”
“It’s fun and a good way to learn and help other people learn about it, too,” said Michael. “It’s a good experience to dress up like this and do a historical project.”
Allie Lewis, 10, enjoyed performing as Nathan Hale. She was thrilled to tell visitors, which included parents and family members of students, facts about Hale, including the fact that he was the first spy for Americans, but was caught and hanged.
“He gave Americans courage,” Allie said in an interview. “It’s interesting to talk about what happened so long ago. This project was such a joy.”
John Paul Jones, played by Alexxa Rivera, 10, was eager to learn about the Scottish sailor.
“He fought so many battles and never gave up,” she said.
As part of a project for their social studies class, students pulled names from a hat and were responsible for researching their assigned figure in the school library and on their own time outside of school.
Some historical figures were more well known than others and students didn’t know much about them initially. But, they quickly became experts of their chance selections.
“The most interesting thing I learned about him was that he got shot at the battle of Brandywine,” said Abigail Langevin, 10, who played Marquis Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer. “I think it’s fun because I got to learn about a lot of historical people. It made me learn more.”
Michael Murphy, 10, selected Peter Stuyvesant.
“I had no idea who he was,” said Michael. “Then, I learned that he was the governor of New Netherlands.”
Brett Locicero, 10, and Olivia Cardi, 10, posed as the second and third presidents of the United States, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, respectively. They each recognized the uniqueness of the project.
“I liked that I learned independently,” said Brett, while Olivia said, “You can express it on your board instead of reading it in a book.”
One of the fifth grader teachers, Deb Lapoint, helped establish the curriculum for the project more than six years ago. These days, her fellow teachers, Jessica Kenney and Jennifer Zarrella, enjoy guiding students through the assignment.
“It’s an experience of getting up in front of an audience and presenting, as well as becoming very knowledgeable about a particular person who lived during the American Revolution,” said Zarrella.
Lapoint agreed. She feels the assignment is more fun for students in comparison to most other lessons.
“They really engage with the characters and learn about the person,” she said. “When they practiced with one another they were definitely teaching one another and they feel like they are teaching their parents, too. They like being an expert on that one person. When they engage like this they remember it forever.”