Did you know that the ballerina Misty Copeland didn’t start dancing until she was 13? Or that ornithologist and painter John James Audubon had a goal of drawing every North American bird? He didn’t succeed but he came very close. The entire Fayerweather community was treated to a history lesson with details like these and more as 39 noteworthy individuals stepped from the pages of history into a Living Wax Museum. The student presentations and Wax Museum are the culmination of the 5th and 6th grade Biographies project, an in-depth 6-week assignment that hones students’ research, writing, and public speaking skills. The project also allows the students to express themselves creatively as they explore how their chosen character might have spoken, dressed, and acted.
Teachers and librarians support the students with help in conducting their research, managing their time and organizing their information, but the project is largely student driven. It begins with a trip to the Cambridge city library where students became familiar with how to use web-based and book-based resources. Back at school, Fayerweather students learn how to take and organize notes and write a paper. The result is a thoughtfully researched “autobiography” written in the voice of their character.
This year, everyone from Harry Houdini, Emily Dickinson, and Toulouse Lautrec to Louis Armstrong, Sir Ernest Shackleton, Helen Keller, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Temple Grandin filled the gym. Students raced around collecting autographs from the famous guests and it was not unusual to hear the youngest children discussing with friends who they will be when they are big kids in the fifth and sixth grades. As a final project before the 6th graders move on to the rigors of 7th and 8th grade, the Biographies project allows students the opportunity to sharpen important academic skills and finish the year with self-confidence.