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History Wax Museum – Till Death Do Us Part 2 May 1, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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When I wrote History Wax Museum – Till Death Do Us PartI ended by saying that I would NEVER do this project again. Not with 28 students. Well, as my mother always said, “Never say never,” or as I like to say, “Crow is best eaten while warm.”

Fast forward a year. I now have 31 third graders and History Wax Museum is HAPPENING! Why? Two teachers are new to 3rd grade, so they don’t have any lingering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from last year. And those of us who are veterans? Well, what can I say? I’d like having a baby. Once you pop the little booger out, you tend to forget all that came before.

It also helps that History Wax Museum is performed at Open House. For teachers this means no Dog and Pony Show (my dog has been dead for years and the pony is out to pasture). No attempts to out-cutesy the teacher next door and NO cleaning the classroom. Can you say bliss?

This year a parent suggested that students should be able to explain just what a history wax museum is to the uninitiated. Okay, here’s what you need to know. NO WAX is harmed in the making of  the History Wax Museum. The students stand frozen in a pose in front of their tri-fold board. There is a button on the floor (okay, it’s a fake button – a red paper circle actually) that visitors step on to activate the character. The student then “comes to life” and tells their story.

Last year, I found myself doing a lot of things that weren’t covered in my teacher credentialing program like throwing together costumes for kids whose parents couldn’t pull it together. Galileo showed up with a piece of a white t-shirt to wear as a beard. It looked a bit like a do-rag. Really? That’s the best you could do?

I sprinted to the local Out of the Closet and found a woman’s frilly shirt. It was supposed to be for Florence Nightingale, but she pulled a costume together at the last minute. Florence (The “Lady with the Lamp”) Nightingale even had a lantern thanks to my neighbors. Galileo ended up wearing the frilly shirt. He did manage to drag in a HUGE telescope for visitors to trip over.

I also helped Abe Lincoln, who was portrayed by a girl, make a stove pipe hat from a paper plate and some black paper. It turned out way better than I ever imaged. Abe’s mom found a “beard” at Michael’s. The girl looked like she had a furry hamster clinging to her face!

This year, I’ve got a new group of kids who are doing a lot of different people. I’m thinking I might sandwich George Carlin between Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi. LOVE IT!

Both Picasso and Gandhi are being played by girls. Gandhi has nixed wearing a skull cap. She asked me for advice on her costume. Another teacher suggested, “How about a diaper?” Okay, that is SO not happening. A lovely parent from last year from India stopped by for a costume consultation. All I know is it involves bedsheets. With another kid’s John Lennon glasses, I believe we have lift off for Gandhi!

I couldn’t resist taking the photo of the Secret Lives of Great Artists. Last year’s Frido Kahlo (I  have Frida “dos” this year.) was surprised to learn that she’d had affairs with women as well as men. I have learned to deftly handle these delicate questions. I’ve found that, “Whatever floats your boat” accompanied by a wink explains so much about the human condition. And to be honest, my Frida was more distressed that Diego was so fat.

Queen Elizabeth I took me aside the other day to let me know that her father Henry VIII was behaving very inappropriately with her – something about spanking and tickling. I suggested she just skip to the beheading of her mother, Anne Boleyn. Nudity – no. Violence – yes. That said, what about Annie Oakley? How can you be a sharpshooter without a gun? Annie made one out of paper, but it looked like a Saturday night special. Now if we can just get a 2×4 and get carving…

Photo Credit: Jan Marshall


1. kiwigal007 - May 1, 2012

This was so funny Jan, thank you for sharing I really enjoyed it… Gosh the stories I could tell about my 30+ kids I work with each day, they are fun bunch too. Kids do and say the darndest things! I have one that I absolutely adore (is that allowed) and we are the best of mates. Yesterday he asked me if I had heard of Basil Brush (did you have him in the States?) and of course Basil was a puppet fox from when I was a kid, this little guy and I are so much alike that he has now been officially called MiniMe because of the shared things we have in common… I want to come back as a kid in my next life…mmmm maybe…. 😉 Good on you with your Abe Lincoln hat! Genius 🙂


2. shoutabyss - May 1, 2012

It sounds intense. Til Death Do Us Part II – Die Harder. I hope you have a great time! I have to admit that “getting into character” is probably a great teaching technique. Some of the knowledge has just got to stick!

I know some things about historical figures that didn’t quite make it into the history books. I often wonder why history class didn’t tell me more about the true nature of the universe. Perhaps because adults were fighting over what I’d be exposed to?

Thanks for making my first day of testing with your Die Harder comment. I needed that. Today, I was working with George Carlin. I asked if he had any final words to add to his speech. He said he knew what George would say…”F.. it!” I had to veto that. Instead he’s going to hold up a card that says BLEEP. I love it! And yes, you’re right that teachers were afraid to tell us about the true nature of the universe. I tend to side with George on this one. Jan


3. CZBZ - May 1, 2012

How fantastic! I’ve never seen anything like this nor heard of it before. I’d love to visit a History Wax Museum. Do people from the community show up, or just parents? Is this a West Coast thing or do teachers do this in other states, too?

I was wondering if anybody signed up to be “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter”?????

Looks like I left enough questions, eh? Do you feel as if you’re still in class? May I go to the bathroom now please? ha!!


Another teacher first did this at our school five years ago. I have seen on the references on the internet to Black History Wax Museums, so it could have originated as a Black History Moth project. The kids first do a rehearsal and perform for those in 2nd grade. The big performance is at Open House where parents and would-be parents attend. It would be way cool if people from the community did as well.

I have to admit that I cracked up seeing the trailers for “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter.” My husband informed me that this was written by the same author who wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Here’s a link to a great interview with the writer of both. He just finished writing Dark Shadows. It’s quite interesting. INTERVIEW with the screenwriter of DARK SHADOWS & ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER Jan
You can go to the bathroom whenever you want as long as you sign out. It’s my way of busting those who don’t know how to tell time on an analog clock. 🙂


4. Mr Carlin's Father - May 2, 2012

Mr Carlin has his show under control….he knows to abstain from the 7 words that can not be said on TV.

Mr. Carlin’s Father,
It’s a lot easier to refrain once you’re dead. As my husband said, the 7 words have become rather irrelevant with the advent of cable. 🙂 Jan


5. The President Elect - May 3, 2012

I’m just waiting for one of the kids to do Tycho Brahe with his fake nose and bizarre living situation. I’ve heard he had midgets living in his house for his “amusement” as well as a moose that eventually fell down a flight of stairs (inside the house!) and had to be put down. Oh, and he did some stuff with stars too, but that’s beside the point. 🙂

Hey Prez,
I think I know someone who’s going to be in 3rd grade next year who could pull this off – copper nose and all! >wink< Jan


6. Catherine Sherman - May 17, 2012

Your students are so lucky they have such a creative teacher that allows them to expand their universes. Multi-disciplinary projects were always my favorite assignments — otherwise known as goofing around with stuff. I need to hang out with more kids. Life is very dull around my house these days.


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