Mooreville Discovery classes portray historic figures

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

MOOREVILLE – They were presidents and first ladies, famous Mississippians and accomplished scientists.
Mooreville Elementary School’s Discovery students spent the day on March 9 portraying someone they weren’t, dressing in character and reciting speeches from memory.
The activities were part of a wax museum project by students in Adelia Wright’s and Linda Herndon’s Discovery classes.
“It was fun because I got to learn new things about famous people,” said Kylee Steward, 9, who portrayed actress and former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley.
Kylee’s fourth-grade classmates all represented famous people from the Magnolia state, while the fifth-graders portrayed different scientists. Second- and third-graders were U.S. presidents and first ladies.
The students began working on the project in early January. They used the library and the Internet to prepare a speech on their person and then had to memorize that speech. During the wax museum, students had to recite the one – or two-minute presentation each time a guest asked them to do so.
Students, relatives and family friends came to the school’s gym that morning to visit the wax museum.
“A lot of people underestimate the abilities of students this age,” Wright said. “They think they can’t learn this much information, and they can.”
Students portrayed puppeteer Jim Henson, actor James Earl Jones, scientist Samuel Morse, astronaut Neil Armstrong and Presidents Ronald Reagan and James Madison, among others.
Fifth-grader Jeb Thomas, 10, was Albert Einstein, complete with a wig of wild white hair.
“Why wouldn’t I pick Einstein?” Jeb said, surprised when asked how he picked the scientist. “I’m always energetic and fun, just like him.”
Savana Ponders, 9, was actress Sela Ward, while Ely Ward, 10, played his favorite athlete, Brett Favre. Ryan Webb, 9, was former President William Henry Harrison, who died on his 32nd day in office of complications from pneumonia. Ryan referred to Harrison’s lengthy inaugural address in frigid temperatures.
“What was I thinking?” Ryan asked during his speech.
Meanwhile, third-grader Ella Presley, 9, was Laddie Boy, the dog of Warren G. Harding. Her speech told the story of the 29th president through the perspective of his pet. She said her favorite part was thinking about the dog’s point of view.
“We encouraged the students to be creative,” Herndon said, noting the project also emphasized thinking skills, technology skills and communication.
For many students it was the first time they had done research on the Internet, and the teachers taught them about Internet safety and reliable sources.
The students also were told to make their speeches interesting with a catchy introduction and interesting closer.
“We hope it will make them better writers,” Herndon said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com