Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Schools

December 16, 2009

Bringing history to life

Russell Middle 7th-graders dig deep to portray historical figures of their chioice

RUSSELL — Grover Cleveland is not exactly a household name, especially among teenagers.

So what possessed Bailey Brewer, a seventh-grader, to read Cleveland’s biography, put on an old-fashioned conservative black suit, paint a drooping mustache on his face and act the part all day Tuesday?

Assigned to research and enact the part of a historical figure for a class assignment at Russell Middle School, Bailey picked Cleveland out of sheer curiosity. “I had heard about him but I didn’t know much about him,” Bailey said.

Most people know Cleveland as the 22nd and 24th president, the only president ever elected to non-consecutive terms. To Bailey, whose accelerated English class has spent the last nine weeks preparing to portray famous historical figures, his political path to power was more intriguing.

“He started as mayor. He had to start from the bottom up,” Bailey said.

It’s that sort of curiosity and insight that Carol Digby and Erica Bergmann, who teach the class, like to see. Some of the choices for the study unit were surprising, but it was gratifying to a teacher to see children dig beneath the superficial history-book facts and discover the real people there.

After weeks of research, the students brought their subjects to life all day Tuesday in the school gym, which they transformed into a museum of sorts.

They called it the Russell Middle School Wax Museum, because each student dressed the part and brought in artifacts and backdrops to create vivid tableaux, bringing their character to near-life.

Students from Russell Primary, Russell-McDowell Intermediate and the middle school trooped through the museum all day, and that gave the “exhibits” the chance to come to life and share details about their lives. Parents attended that night.

There were a couple of Cleopatras, a Mother Teresa, Bill Gates and Saddam Hussein. Other presidents included Richard Nixon, John Kennedy and two Theodore Roosevelts.

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