Black Mountain Primary brings historical figures to life

Fred McCormick
Black Mountain News

It’s been over two decades since Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a tragic car accident, and more than 150 years since Abraham Lincoln took his final breath.

Hannah Cox presents Queen Elizabeth II and all the things she admires about the monarch.

Yet Lincoln and Princess Di - and a host of other historical figures - were brought to life March 26-28 by a bunch of third-graders during Black Mountain Primary School's annual "wax museum" presentation in the school theater.

Several weeks ago, children from the school’s five third-grade classes were given a list of historical figures to choose from. 

Black Mountain Primary School students push the "button" on the hand of Clancy Harrin,  who studied Diana, Princess of Wales.

“Learning about historical figures is a huge third-grade standard for social studies, so we use this to teach them about biographies,” Jaime Goodwin, who has taught at the kindergarten-third grade school for six years, said after her class’s presentation. Students spend three weeks researching historic figures in the digital lab and the library, she said.

Once they complete their work on the person they are representing, students have a week to write a speech about their character. They get another week to memorize the speech.

On March 28, Goodwin's students were ready. Dressed as their famous person, they waited as dozens of parents and peers filled the theater. Some were really nervous as they waited for fellow students to press a "button" drawn on their hands, signalling them to begin their talks.

The adrenaline was high. Some of the students were so into their performances that they rolled their eyes back to stop when their speech was over.

Jaime Goodwin takes a picture of a student dressed as Betsy Ross in the theater at Black Mountain Primary School during the class's March 28 wax museum presentation.

Former presidents like Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and George Washington were represented, as were athletes Michael Jordan and Gabby Douglas. There was a Harry Houdini, donning handcuffs that he removed with ease, and a Nelson Mandela.

A student from Jaime Goodwin's class at Black Mountain Primary does a brief presentation on the life of John F. Kennedy.

Clancy Harrin was Princess Diana, a person she greatly admires. “I love Princess Diana,” she said, breaking character. “She was beautiful, and she was sweet.”

Harrin learned a lot about the late wife of Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne. Princess Diana’s desire to help others really impressed her, she said. “She was really nice,” she said. “She helped children in need, people with HIV, and the homeless.”

Just beyond Betsy Ross, near Sacagawea, Harrin’s classmate Olin Christenberry stood tall as Churchill, a person he was interested in because of the time period in which he lived.

“I knew who Winston Churchill was,” Christenberry said, decked out in a top hat and bow tie. “I like World War II stuff, and I just like Winston Churchill.”

Getting into character involved memorizing lines, but Christenberry found a way to do that. “I just read it over and over and over again,” he said. “Then I just say it over and over and over again. That worked really well.”

With the presentations behind them, the students hadn’t yet finished the assignment, Goodwin noted. They still had to write their speeches “in their neatest handwriting,” the teacher said, for a hardbound book that becomes their "wax museum book."

“That gives them something to remember their third grade year by,” she said.

Christenberry and Harrin were both pleased with their performances turned out, they said.

“I was definitely happy about it,” Christenberry said.