Learning by being

By on February 5, 2009

by Lynn Meredith
It’s not often you get to spend time with the likes of Abraham Lincoln, Elvis Presley, Julia Child or Curly from the Three Stooges.

It’s not usual to be able to talk to Rosa Parks, Walter Payton, Walt Disney or Mother Theresa just by pressing a button and seeing them come to life. But that’s what visitors to Kaneland John Shields Elementary School in Sugar Grove were able to do when Stacey Gacek’s third-grade class presented the Biography Living Museum on Jan. 30.

The “statues” stood stock-still at their station, surrounded by posters or collages of their lives and dressed in the costume they would have worn when they were alive. When a visitor pressed the button at a station, the historical figures came alive and began to tell their life stories.

“I was born Jan. 8, 1945,” began Elvis Presley (Brandon Molitor).

The characters from history told about their upbringing, hobbies, accomplishments and when they died. They wore costumes to help visitors recognize them.

Thomas Edison (Stephanie Alagna) wore a light bulb secured to a headband on top of her head. Pocahontas (Savanna Chimenti) and Sacagewa (Shaelah Kinzinger) wore fringe, feathers and fur as Native American characters. Babe Ruth (Brennan Hare) sported a baseball uniform and carried a bat. Amelia Bloomer (Jordan Frazier) wore the article of clothing she invented underneath her long skirt.

“My mom found a person who made (the bloomers) on the Internet. I like them-just not the ruffles. They are kind of itchy,” Frazier said.

Abe Lincoln (Niko Barrientos) wore the long beard, tall hat and suit we associate with Lincoln.

“Abraham Lincoln is my favorite president because he freed the slaves, and I think that’s real cool,” Barrientos said.

Madame Curie (Ava Mandele) stood by a poster that said “Science Hero” and held a microscope, a gift from her grandmother for Christmas. Mandele chose Curie as her character because she admired her research that helped people with cancer.

“I thought she was very cool because she made medicine to help people. I want to be either an astronomer or be in Congress or be a doctor,” Mandele said.

Vann Thompson, who played Curly from the Three Stooges, had other motives for choosing his famous person.

“Because I’m funny. I used to love his shows. He used to say like this: ‘Nyakk, nyakk, nyakk (imitation of Curly’s famous sounds).’ I do Moe, I do Shemp. I do Larry,” Thompson said.

Described by Gacek as the “class clown,” Thompson said how he’d like to be on a show like that in the future.

“I just say funny stuff. I made the teacher laugh when I was in trouble. I made the principal laugh,” Thompson said.

Gacek said the third-graders researched the famous person from history, finding facts about them and pictures. They then wrote a short speech, which they memorized. They created the visual aids and backgrounds at home, as well as found or made their costumes.

“I told them that their person had to be dead, because otherwise they wanted to be Hannah Montana. They have to be dead so they have a lifeline of information,” Gacek said. “They get so excited when they get to do a special project.”

Photo: Mrs. Gacek’s third grade class at John Shields Elementary School presented a Biography Museum on Friday. The students chose a famous person, dressed like that individual and gave a presentation for parents and other students. (From left to right) Niko Barrientos as Abraham Lincoln, Ava Mandele as Marie Curie and Vann Thompson playing Jerry Horowitz (a.k.a. Curly of The Three Stooges). Photos by John DiDonna