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Innovative Educator: Wendell students become wax figures to portray famous people in history

Elizabeth Pope brings history to life and the community together for her students at Wendell Middle School.

WENDELL, Idaho — Editor's note: This content is sponsored by CapEd Credit Union.

Once a year the Wendell Middle School gym transforms into a wax museum. Eighth graders become wax figures to portray famous people in history.

"The person is frozen in time like a museum exhibit, and when they (visitors) push the button the person comes to life," eighth-grade teacher Elizabeth Pope explains.

One eighth grade girl came to life as Dolly Parton. She explained a little of Dolly's history before singing the Parton classic "I Will Always Love You."

Other students portrayed Elvis Presley, Helen Keller, Buffalo Bill Cody and civil rights leader Janet Murguia.

"The thing that I really love the most about it is it's an element of theater that a lot of students don't have any experience with," Pope said.

Pope heads up the project.

"They actually will dress up like that person, they'll write a skit and perform the skit, they'll create a museum exhibit with set, materials, props around them, and then they will perform their skit numerous times for the community and for students and for people who come to watch." Pope said.

Ben Franklin, Susan B. Anthony and Rosie the Riveter, among others, have made appearances at past wax museums Pope spearheaded when she worked in other Idaho schools. She keeps bringing the project back, because she believes the kids get so much out of it.

"From the researching to the setting up to the costume creation to the performance, they learn a lot that's not just out of a book," Pope said.

While Pope brings history to life for the students, she also brings the community together for the students. She organizes school family nights, including this school year's Fall Festival. Hundreds turned out for the fun and games and to connect with teachers and staff.

"We know that having parents and community members in the school helps strengthen student achievement," Pope said.

And if history is a guide, the young wax figures will achieve greatness once again with the next wax museum.

"It blows me away, and that's probably the thing that makes me want to do the work every year is the way that a lot of the students, they just blow everybody's minds," Pope said.

This year's wax museum show will be in mid-May. Pope says she gets a lot of help from the eighth grade team of teachers to bring it all together.

If you would like to nominate an Innovative Educator who is going above and beyond, send us an email to innovativeeducator@ktvb.com.
Educators, for information on submitting an application for a classroom grant through the Idaho CapEd Foundation, visit www.capedfoundation.org.

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