Reilly students will bring history to ‘life’ as statues

SALEM – American treasures like aviators Amelia Earhart and Wilbur Wright, comedian Lucille Ball, patriot Paul Revere, astronaut Sally Ride and baseball great Roger Maris will come to life today at Reilly Elementary – all at the touch of a button.

Tap one button and learn how Earhart built her own makeshift rollercoaster, tap another and learn all about Revere’s famous ride.

Fourth graders in Melanie Miller’s language arts classes will emulate as many as 60 historic figures who left a legacy in their chosen fields when they stage the American Treasures Living Wax Museum in the gymnasium.

Each student will dress like the historic figure they studied and stand still. Then when a visitor taps their button, they’ll talk about their life, sharing some of the interesting little tidbits they’ve learned.

“I learned so much myself,” Miller said.

In the past month or more, the students researched people who made a lasting impression on the country. Based on their research, they wrote a five-paragraph biography about the person they chose for the project.

They also had to write a speech to deliver about the person while portraying the person. Students came up with costumes and props, such as Paul Revere’s lantern, and created display boards to outline the life of their American treasure.

Students had a variety of fields to consider when looking for the person they wanted to portray. Some of those areas included political/presidents, innovators, historical, civil rights, educational, inventors/scientists, frontier, sports, aviation/space, entertainment, medical, business or artists.

Names of some of the people expected to show up at the museum include Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, Titanic survivor Molly Brown, escape artist Harry Houdini, artist Norman Rockwell, Apple founder Steve Jobs , makeup mogul Estee Lauder, zoologist Dian Fossey and baseball great Jackie Robinson, to name a few.

The project helped students hone their skills for research, writing and oral presentation, plus it provided a fun way to learn about someone rather than just writing a biography report.

“I just think it’s important for them to practice some of these skills,” Miller said.

When asked for their opinion about the project, some of the students simply responded, “awesome.”

Seth Heffner, who’s portraying Houdini, said he thought it was fun and it was interesting to learn about someone that way. Classmate Libby Ripley also said it was fun how they got to learn about the person and then dress up like them. She’ll be portraying Lucille Ball.

“We’re really excited. It’s going to be a fun day,” Miller said.

Students are being graded in four areas: biography, speech, display board and costumes and props. She said they put a lot of hard work into the project and she’s really proud of how far they’ve come.

The museum will be open to parents and family members and the rest of the school.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at