Growing up in Georgia gave Newbery 5th-grade teacher Flora London a keen appreciation of Black History Month. To celebrate this important month in her Wenatchee classroom and to learn about influential African Americans in history, London created a unique research project for her students to not only discover these figures but to also walk in their shoes for a moment.
“Fifth-grade history curriculum includes a great deal of information about the significant contributions of well known African Americans such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks but there are many historical figures that are not included," says London. To bring these figures to life and celebrate Black History Month, she dreamed up the “Living Wax Museum” project as a way for her students to research an African American figure of their choice and then present their research while in character.
London gave the students a lot of freedom to create their living wax museum presentations. The students were allowed to choose who they wanted to research and drafted speeches of between 15-30 seconds that included key points about the person and how they influenced history. “There’s a lot of buy-in and ownership among the students,” says London. “The kids are dressed up; they’re doing speeches as their person, they’re totally into it.”
As a 1:1 classroom, London encouraged the students to utilize their tablets to research and collaborate with her electronically on written documents and graphics for their presentations.
Students from other 5th-grade classrooms visited the living wax museum during the day and interacted with the various figures at each display.
“Thinking about history from multiple perspectives is so important for our students,” says London. “This is the core of what I wanted to accomplish with the kids through this project.” The outcome was a memorable interactive learning experience that honored the contributions of African Americans in our country.