Civil War Wax Museum – 2014


Today was the day.  The count down began last week.  Busy.  Busy.  Busy.  Finish writing reports.  Finish maps.  Then there are the little things like the Table of Contents, the dedication page  and the About the Author page.  Measure out the cover.  Cut.  Put the pages inside.  Pound a nail to create holes for sewing.  Sew the pages to the cover.  Cover the cover.  What to use?  Wallpaper? Colored paper?  Measure out, cut and glue to cover.  Fold over edges and glue.  Measure, cut and paste  the end pages.  Decorate the cover.  Number the pages.  Admire.  Feel proud.

Decorate the Little Theater.  Student-made posters created and saved over the last 19 years need to be taped to the walls.  Hang  stars and sparkly strips.  Set up tables.  Cover the tables and book shelves with colored paper.  Hang flags.  Display artifacts.  Display resource books.  Display handmade hardcover books.  Practice the Gettysburg Address.  Get costumes on.  Get in place.  Welcome visitors.  Every 20 minutes or so, stop to recite the Gettysburg Address.

Here are some pictures of our event … our cast of characters.

A Half Score and Eight Years Ago …

I love doing big projects with my students.  There are so many skills that can be incorporated when the project is big and deep and fun!  Yesterday was our Civil War Wax Museum (the first for my students, the eighteenth for me)… it was the culmination of six weeks worth of research, writing, discussing, and experiencing.  Each student had researched a particular person who lived and played a role in the Civil War.  Yesterday they dressed as that person and shared their life with museum goers.

Periodically I interrupted the flow in the museum to introduce myself as Abraham Lincoln and then to ask the students to recite the Gettysburg Address.

At the museum, students each recited their line of the Gettysburg Address from wherever they were in the room.  I videotaped this version before we began so that everyone could be heard clearly.

The students also made hard covered books filled with their research, maps, and poems.  When I say they made the books, I mean that they measured out the cardboard, pounded nails so they could sew the pages together, and then covered the books with wallpaper.

In the afternoon, all of the third, fourth, and fifth graders visited our museum.  In the evening, parents, grandparents, neighbors, and siblings visited.   By 7:00pm my students and I were thirsty, sweaty, and tired.  But we were also exhilarated, proud, and deep down happy!  In the eighteen years I have been teaching about the Civil War and holding Civil War Wax Museums, I have never grown tired of watching my students exceed their own expectations.  That feeling is what fosters “growing up”.

John Goddard Set Goals — So Have We!

With the idea of exploration and adventure still in mind, we thought about John Goddard and the goals he set for himself when he was 15.   We got to thinking … what might we like to do, to accomplish, to see, to experience, to master in the life journey ahead.  Each student made a list of at least 25 goals.  Then we made a video of ourselves sharing those goals.  Below is a shortened version of our video – a sampling of what 5th graders see themselves capable of achieving.  It all begins with a goal … and then step by step we’ll learn what to do to make it happen!

Exploration: Goals and Adventures

The topic of exploration has always fascinated me.  The idea of experiencing the unknown kind of makes my toes tingle in the same way that being in high places does.  Just think about it.  An explorer takes all kinds of risks!  An explorer needs to be resourceful, brave, prepared, and maybe even a little bit crazy.  It must be hard to be prepared when you’re not sure what you’re getting into or what you’ll find.  A successful explorer no doubt needs to be able to think on his or her feet, meaning he or she must be able to solve problems.  A successful explorer won’t be the kind of person who gets stuck on an escalator and then stands there yelling for help!

“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his greatest surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t.”
– Henry Ford

We are all explorers of sorts.  We might not all be climbing mountains, flying off into space, or digging up dinosaurs.  Many of us are exploring our own abilities.  I remember that when my son was taking karate classes, I decided to give it a try myself.  I was exploring karate and myself at the same time.  I learned about the self defense aspect and the discipline required to focus on the various forms.  I learned that I became very nervous each time I tested for a new belt.  I learned that I loved the feeling of passing the test and earning the next rank.  I made it all the way to brown belt!  I’m still proud of that accomplishment.  I’ve always tried to find new things to learn and new goals to accomplish.  Last year I ran a 7k race and came in third in my division!  Running wasn’t anything I ever did.  But I became determined to set myself a running goal.  My first goal was to run a 5k.  Once I accomplished that, I raised my goal and ran a 7k.  I can’t even clearly explain how amazing I felt when I crossed the finish line. 

Thinking of my own experience with learning and trying new things, I can only imagine the emotions that an explorer feels.  There must be moments of uncertainty,  fear, and discouragement.  There are so many things that could go wrong!  An explorer must have a drive to keep going and not give up.

“To get through the hardest journey we need take only one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping.”
– Chinese Proverbs

And if the feeling of accomplishment that an explorer feels is anything like the feeling of accomplishment each of us feels when we succeed at something that was not easy to complete, then I understand why there is still exploration in the world.  As I see it, the difference between an explorer and someone like myself is the level of risk and the level of commitment.  I explore new skills and new learning, but I don’t take myself to remote areas of the earth for months at a time or put myself in dangerous situations in order to accomplish my goals.

Each student in the class is currently researching an explorer.  What are each of you finding out about what it takes to explore the unknown?  What kind of person was (or is) your explorer?   Do you think that today’s explorers are different from the explorers that left Europe in the 1500’s?  Are the reasons for exploring today different than the reasons for exploring back then?

An Assignment for my Students:

A few days ago I read aloud an article about an explorer named John Goddard.  He is a remarkable man.  When he was 15 years old, he made a list of things he wanted to accomplish in his lifetime.  Click on this link  (John Goddard ) and watch the video there.  The video was made in either 1998 or 1999, but it is worthwhile.  Then click on John Goddard’s list of goals.  As you are glancing through the list, think of a connection between your explorer and John Goddard.  Then make a comment to this post.  Explain your connection and tell a bit about your explorer.  Please keep in mind the comment guidelines and our new goal of a 3-4 sentence minimum.