“DON’T COME NEAR! I HAVE THE BLACK DEATH!”
Startling the crowd around her, my student shouted these words at the beginning of her wax museum speech. The crowds loved it, and her speech was a highlight during one of my earliest wax museums.
Wax museums are a great way to make history come alive for students. The students research the information on a historical person or event, write and memorize a one minute speech, prepare a 3-fold presentation board giving more information, and finally present the speech wearing a period costume.
A wax museum can be adapted to any grade level. In my fourth grade class, it was a yearly history project given during Grandparents Day. Around 400 people would visit the wax museum during our 90 minute time slot. Parents, grandparents, and kindergarten through high school students would come and listen to the speeches. I was fortunate to teach in a K-12 school, and the older students enjoyed hearing the speeches and reminiscing about the historical person or event they represented when they did the wax museum.
My students loved doing the wax museums. After all their hard work with research, writing and memorizing their speeches, they transformed into little experts as they donned their costumes and said their speeches. The reward was instant with the smiling audiences and positive comments. Even with the almost non-stop reciting of the speeches, it was a highlight of the year for the class and always a huge success with the audiences.
Logistically, the students would be assigned a presentation spot about 10 yards apart from each other. They would set up their presentation boards and “freeze” in a comfortable pose. A person or small group would come and press an imaginary button on the shoulder, and the wax figure would come to life, deliver the speech, and freeze again as soon as the speech was over. This process repeated many times during the Wax Museum. The students had carefully hidden water bottles for when their throats got dry.
Here are a few pictures from the past few years. The Leonardo da Vinci characters were from three different years.
Here are the steps for a wax museum.
- Pick the historical event/person.
Research and write a one minute speech.
Revise the speech and memorize (teacher needs to edit speeches).
Prepare a presentation board with more information (character/event title and dates, map of where the event happened or where the person lived, any interesting pictures or information.
Practice memorized speech in front of people with good volume, speed and enunciation.
Find a costume.
Present the wax museum.
Whether you have a traditional class or a home school, a wax museum can work in many settings and is a great way to learn history. Have you done a wax museum? I would love to hear about your experience.
Special thanks to Veronica at captureperfection.com for the use of her pictures.