A more personal view of history at South Allegheny


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A fifth-grade class in South Allegheny School District has discovered that reading and imagination are as good as a time machine when it comes to bringing history to life.

In the Wachs [Wax] museum at South Allegheny Elementary School, 18 students dressed as U.S. presidents, explorers, entertainers and inventors as they delivered monologues on their subjects' lives in a program before family members on Friday.

The event was named for teacher Jennifer Wachs, who said it served a dual purpose.

"It is a way to get students excited about nonfiction, as well as learning about history, which they tend to find dull and boring," Mrs. Wachs said.

Funding was from the nonprofit Consortium for Public Education in McKeesport, which works with Western Pennsylvania school districts on initiatives designed to strengthen and broaden school leadership, engage the community and empower students.

Student Jordan Kormik, who was familiar with the story of Benjamin Franklin demonstrating electricity with a kite and key, chose his subject because he wanted to find out what else the inventor and statesman was famous for.

Wearing wire-framed glasses, a hair net to appear bald on top and a cotton-crafted ponytail, the Port Vue boy told the audience that Mr. Franklin was the youngest of 10 sons, invented the Franklin stove and signed the Declaration of Independence.

Julia Nelson donned a furry hat, goggles and white scarf to portray aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart. She also wrapped tape around her hands because her military veteran grandfather told her pilots did that in the 1930s for a better grip on plane controls.

"She was true to her own self," the Port Vue girl said of Ms. Earhart.

Delaney Myers of Port Vue dressed "as a lady" in white shirt and skirt as African-American civil rights activist Rosa Parks.

"I knew she stood up for African-Americans and I thought she would be interesting to learn more about," she said.

Justice Hresko wore a skirt trimmed with fringe, boots and beads and carried a doll in a papoose to portray Sacagawea, a Lemhi Shoshone woman who was an interpreter and guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition in its exploration of the western United States.

"Next, I want to read next about Rosa Parks," the Liberty girl said.

Rhiannon Wilt, wearing a safari hat and carrying binoculars and a toy chimpanzee, portrayed primatologist Jane Goodall to explore through the written word.

The Lincoln girl said she, too, is an animal lover and has thought about becoming a veterinarian. Learning about Ms. Goodall's adventures, she said, sealed the deal.

"Now I know I want to be a veterinarian," Rhiannon said.

All of the books will be available for reading outside of the classroom.

"They're all eager to read other biographies," Mrs. Wachs said.

education - neigh_south

Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com. First Published May 23, 2013 9:15 AM


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