The halls of Astoria Middle School transformed for 90 minutes on Friday into a living wax museum full of figures from Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, India, Greece and Rome.
Around 170 sixth-graders assumed the guise of historical figures for a social studies project. They fashioned costumes, dressed up and stood stoically until a passerby pressed a custom button to hear a recitation of their character’s life and impact on history.
Each class took on a different civilization. Kids chose their characters through a lottery and bartered with others for their preferred choice.
Jaxson Brim, a student in Sam Abbate’s class, chose to be a terra-cotta warrior. He assumed a defensive stance, his spear jutting out. But press his button, and Brim shifted to a more conversational stance, recounting the history of the funerary figures from Chinese history.
“I just thought it was an interesting topic,” Brim said. “I learned about the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, who ordered the construction of the terra-cotta army.”
Students spend the better part of a month preparing for the wax museum. Carrie Kaul, a teacher who oversees the project, said it provides an all-inclusive lesson building research and public speaking skills, while exposing students to ancient civilizations.
After the museum, the kids rushed like an invading horde out the front doors of the middle school for a group photo. Among those in the audience was Cindy Sapp, a former sixth-grade teacher who brought the tradition of the wax museum with her more than a decade ago from Toledo Elementary School in Lincoln County.
“I was a brand new sixth-grade teacher, and there wasn’t a lot of curriculum,” said Sapp, who works in special education. “And so I found this program that taught about Egypt, and the culminating project for that was a wax museum.
“What I love about this project is that every single kid, regardless of their ability, can do it and be super successful.”