Castlio History Wax Museum Brings History to Life

Posted on 10/04/2016
A student in costume poses next to their display on Sir Francis Drake.
It is the goal of every history teacher to make history come alive for students, to give them the opportunity to put themselves in the shoes of our ancestors. Wax museums were created centuries ago to allow people to pay respects “in person” to a fallen royal or others worthy of adoration. And the wax museum created by fifth grade students at Castlio Elementary is something to adore.

Fifth grade teacher Tracy Branstetter said of the museum, “The project was done after my students saw Native American artifacts made by another fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hamp.” Inspired by their peers, the students – when given the opportunity to choose the assignment – chose to do a wax museum, presentation boards, and to build artifacts. “They designed the project, and then I created a plan to implement it. It was important for the students to have a say what they wanted to do to showcase their learning. It made learning more meaningful for them, and they seemed so excited about it.”

MarcoPoloGiving more meaning to instruction by offering choice is valuable, but finding another way to incorporate something the kids love into the lesson was even more effective. “They also created explorer Pokémon cards to hand out for each explorer,” Branstetter said. “After each speech, the wax figure (or student in costume) gave the audience a card. The students also designed an explorer Pokémon invitation to pass out to people that they wanted to invite. I wanted this project to be led by the students as much as possible.”

And it worked. Visiting parents loved many aspects of the wax museum. It showed each student’s individual creativity, gave them a chance to practice public speaking, offered an opportunity to improve their collaboration skills, and – most importantly – they had fun while learning.

“It is important for students to make history come alive,” Branstetter said, “because they learn so much more by assuming the role of a historical figure rather than just reading about it in a textbook. It made them more motivated to learn. I believe that it will have a lasting impact on their learning.”

“What the students enjoyed the most is the fact that they felt like they had a choice in their learning,” Branstetter said. “They also liked that fact that the project offered so many different ways to showcase learning, that every student was able to find something about the project that they really enjoyed doing.”

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