On March 11, the Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School cafeteria bore a striking resemblance to the movie “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.”
More than 60 fourth-graders, dressed as famous Americans, “came alive” as part of an annual Living History Museum presentation.
They described what it was like to be Babe Ruth, Janet Jackson, Neil Armstrong and others to parents, teachers, and fellow students.
Ten-year-old Julia Hixson, as Pocahontas, described an Indian girl who was very different from the one in the Disney movie. “Not many people know her [true story],” she said. “In the movie, she was 19. In real life, John Smith came when she was 11. He was a lot older.”
Kevin Thompson, 9, dressed as Buffalo Bill, showed off his rifle and pistol and talked about life on the American frontier.
“When I was 11, I left behind my mom and my dad,” he told visitors to his station. “When I was a young man, I was a buffalo hunter.”
This year, all three fourth-grade classes presented together. Fourth-grade teachers Eloise Bohlman, Greg Basgall and Lori Lerner (who teaches a combined fourth- and fifth-grade class) decided to join forces instead of having individual classroom presentations, as they had done in the past.
The students began preparing their living history projects in February. They received a topic, such as “explorers” or “athletes,” and each then chose a famous American in that category to match their social studies curriculum.
“We wanted to get a good range so they could teach each other and each could be the expert [on a certain person],” Bohlman said.
Through the project, students not only learned how to conduct research and find credible sources, but had the chance to write a speech on their chosen person’s life, she added.
“It’s an opportunity for public speaking,” Bohlman said. “We also wanted an opportunity for them to show off their hard work.”
While some students acted as more recognizable people, such as Martha Washington and Walt Disney, others had the difficult task of bringing the less well-known to life.
Bailey Edwards, 11, chose to portray Gov. Edmund Andros from colonial New England, who was unpopular with the New Englanders for enforcing England’s laws.
“I later tried to escape town by wearing a dress, but someone saw my boots and sent me to jail,” he told his audience.
Edwards later admitted that he wouldn’t be caught in a dress, jail or not.
The Living History Museum also provided a learning experience for younger students, including Lucy Roach’s kindergarten class.
“Everything’s coming to life for them,” she said of her 22 kindergartners as they listened intently to presentations. “It’s interesting because they’ve got a real person to talk to.”
Events like this also spark their desire to learn, she added.
“It really stimulates their curiosity,” she said. “They want to know more about the characters they saw.”