“If you want to drop off the face of the earth, just be an assistant coach.” Whose famous quote is that? Wyandotte Elementary School fourth grader Julian Bustos knows it is Pro Football Hall of Famer Bob Griese after researching the famous Hoosier for the school’s wax museum.
“Bob Griese was born in Evansville, played at Purdue and made it into the NFL,” says Julian. “He really inspired me with his life story. He showed that you need to work hard to pursue your dreams.”
Students are stationed throughout the gymnasium. Visitors tap a cardboard button on the table for the students to “come to life” to share biographical information about the person they are portraying.
Classmate Ashlyn Glick chose to research actress, singer and comedian Shelley Long. “She’s best known for being on the TV show Cheers,” says Ashlyn. “This was fun. I liked making the speech, getting the props together and my grandma let me wear her Cheers, Boston t-shirt.”
Teacher Aaron Hamilton says students research an individual, create a pamphlet or poster, and then develop their wax museum speech. He says the fourth grade teachers try to match a famous Hoosier with a student’s interests and future career goals. “Some of the best connections have been students with a passion for art that get to see Robert Indiana or T.C. Steele's work, or science-driven students who get Elwood Haynes or Eli Lilly. Jim Davis is another popular choice,” says Hamilton.
Other legendary Hoosiers included pro bowler Mike Aulby, NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, women’s rights activist May Wright Sewall and singer Crystal Gayle.
Hamilton says the lessons from this activity go beyond researching and writing: “We want them to see that these people we call famous were not handed the fame. They all started somewhere, often small, and worked their way up to be considered famous. We hope that as students research the accomplishments of the variety of talented Hoosiers they can see some of the steps they themselves might eventually take to forge their own path and be successful.”
At Cole Elementary School, third grade students held a wax museum that featured individuals who have made an impact on our world. “In our biography unit, students are taught how to write a biography,” says teacher Angie Marks. “After writing a biography for their person, they change it into an autobiography. This ends up being their wax museum speech. The students memorize the speech and create or find an appropriate outfit.”
Students portrayed a variety of historical figures including aviator Amelia Earhart, civil rights activist Rosa Parks, entrepreneur and chocolate maker Milton Hershey and actor Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson.
“I like watching gymnastics so I chose Simon Biles,” says student Hallston Lord. “I will remember that she was adopted and didn’t have a good family life, but her grandparents raised her. Even though she could have been sad, she decided to keep moving forward. Now, she is one of the best in gymnastics.”
Classmate Annie Keiser portrayed Ree Drummond. “I wanted to do her because she looks like me and I like to cook,” says Annie. “Ree inspires me to be like her when I grow up. I want to be a little bit of a teacher, like maybe a cooking teacher."