Eastside Connections students perform wax museum project outdoors

NILES – “Wax figures” of former President Abraham Lincoln, theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, intrepid pilot Amelia Earhart, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, athlete Kobe Bryant and musical sensation Justin Bieber all made appearances at Eastside Connections School after hours on April 22 and 23. The historical figures, celebrities and more gave speeches to families that walked in front of them – activated by a “motion sensor.”

The “wax figures” were portrayed by Eastside students eager to share their love of history with their families and friends.

The historical figures and famous personalities were presented by second graders tasked with researching the figure, making a presentation board of information and memorizing a speech to give about the person they had researched. The students arrived dressed like their subject.

The project is modeled after a “wax museum” by second-grade educators Lauren Cornelius and Rhonda Belcher. Instead of having a button or touching the student’s hand to activate the presentation, as in a museum with audio sound clips, Belcher and Cornelius decided to have students imagine they had motion sensors to activate their speeches. The outdoor presentations and “motion sensors” were part of the alterations to make the after-hours presentation more COVID-19 safe for everyone involved.

“You have to be creative to make it work,” Belcher said.

The content of the presentations included many types of learning integral to the second graders’ curriculum, the teachers said.

“We did a unit on biographies,” Cornelius said. “[The project] ties in their writing, technology with the research, social studies, art, and language arts. It ties in all of the students’ different [learning] standards.”

The students stood next to their presentation boards as they spoke about their subject’s life and legacy.

“The turnout was insane,” Cornelius said. “The families wanted to come.”

“We like to have parents come to the presentations,” Belcher said. “We think it’s important to have [students] see the community involvement. [For example], I’m not asking you to learn about LeBron James to tell me, but to tell other people about him.”

Cornelius said attendees were encouraged to ask questions of the students, and that it was part of the experience for them not to know everything.

“Even if they don’t know the answer yet, they can answer how they need to do more research to find it,” Cornelius said.

Principal Joe Racht attended and said it was “a really neat night” for everyone.

This was the second year for the project. In 2020, Belcher and Cornelius had students spaced out on the playground at the school during July with masked attendees hearing the students’ speeches.

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