University City

In this class, students become the subjects of their lesson

Meeting someone famous and learning about their lives intrigues people.

For Patricia Glennon, a fifthgrade teacher at Back Creek Church Academy, she used this curiosity as a tool to teach students about history, research techniques and public speaking.

Each of the 17 students of Glennon's class chose to "become" a person of historic importance or current celebrity and be a part of a "Living History Museum" for a day.

On May 17, historic figures Amelia Earhart (played by Savannah Martin), and Thomas Edison (Collin Alpern) joined current celebrities Alex Rodriguez (portrayed by Jordan Baker) and soul surfer Bethany Hamilton (Hannah Goodman) and others to tell students about themselves and show some of their personal "artifacts" in the Living History Museum.

"My goal was to get the students excited about biography, so the only limitation I had is that (the historic figure) had to be someone they were very interested in," said Glennon.

The teacher served as the museum's curator, giving a lecture about the nature of the exhibits other students and their parents were about to see.

All classes at the academy and some of the students' parents viewed the museum held in Back Creek Church's old sanctuary. The sanctuary was built in 1868 and still has some original hand-made bricks, which lent a more authentic air of going back in time.

Each fifth-grader, dressed and acting as their person of interest, sat statuesque surrounded by their artifacts and a "button" and waited for groups of spectators. When a museum patron pressed an exhibit's button, the exhibit would "come alive" and recite a memorized speech describing who they were and then revert back to a statue.

The idea for the animated exhibits is modeled after an Animatronics display Glennon saw while leading a field trip at the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon in Charleston, S.C.

"They then did internet research for other facts," said Glennon.

"They then had to handwrite a three-page essay. The other challenge was to come up with a costume and three or four artifacts that would say something about the person represented."

The museum day "was cool, because they got to learn history from doing a hands-on project," said Skyler Darden, a seventh-grader. Darden participated in a previous Living History Museum project, which has been an annual event for five years.