Pupils interact in 'living history wax museum'

Photo by Hugh Osteen

Photo by Hugh Osteen

By Johnny Jackson


Kindergartner, Gabriel Moody, told the group of first-graders, with an air of measurable authority, what exactly they should know about the black scientist, George Washington Carver.

Fellow kindergartner, Harmonie Williams, took a more subtle approach in telling students about the life of the black businesswoman, Madam C.J. Walker.

They each took part in a "living history wax museum" event Friday at Tussahaw Elementary School in McDonough, celebrating the final days of Black History Month.

"I thought it was important we celebrate black history, and that the students understand all the contributions that have been made by black Americans," said Tussahaw School Counselor Lisset Pickens, who created the activity.

The school-wide event is the first for Tussahaw, which opened two years ago, and currently has a student body of 575 pupils. About 30 students volunteered to stand, dressed as influential black Americans in American history, telling peers about the various contributions they made to the nation's history.

Parent Leontray Williams said he was glad to see the students interact with one another and actively portray the historic figures they have been studying. He said his daughter, Harmonie, learned a great deal from studying Madam C.J. Walker.

Williams said he supports activities that highlight different groups in American history, because they benefit students who were born into the particular heritage.

"I think it's great, because they can have their own identify, and they can be proud of who they are," Williams said.

Students appeared to be impressed by second-grader, Jacob Beattie, who acted out his role as black inventor, Garrett Morgan, with seriousness and professionalism.

"I've learned that he has made respiratory protective hoods, and he invented something that's just like the traffic light," Beattie said.

Youngsters, Kimberly Thomas, Ethan Marshal, and Dilan Pouliot, demonstrated to their kindergarten classmates how black astronaut, Mae Jemison, would have traveled into space some 30 years ago.

Elsewhere in the school, students portrayed famous black athletes, such as baseball great, Jackie Robinson, and basketball superstar, Michael Jordan. Others played trail-blazing black doctors of the late 19th Century, such as Daniel Hale Williams and Rebecca J. Cole.

Fourth-graders, Tyler Hall, Taylor Williams, and Samantha Curra, told students about Cole's achievements despite being a black woman during the Reconstruction era.

"I want to teach the younger kids something," said Taylor Williams, who helped research Cole's biography.

"It's good that they're learning something, while we're learning something, too," added Curra.

Tussahaw Principal Carl Knowlton said he is encouraged to continue the activity next year.

"Making history come alive with the kids is more meaningful," said Knowlton. "Kids need to know all history, and this adds to the history they're being taught in class."