Students at Resurrection Regional Catholic School dressed up like historic and famous individuals for the school’s annual Wax Museum presentation last Wednesday.
What do Donald Trump, Winston Churchill, Cleopatra, Edgar Allen Poe, Alicia Keys, Frank Sinatra, Eliza Hamilton, Carli Lloyd and various other famous individuals have in common? They were all at Resurrection Regional Catholic School last Wednesday.
Five years ago, eighth-grade social studies teacher Patricia Murphy saw a creative assignment for students at another school. These students would pretend to be famous individuals by dressing up as them and talking about that specific famous person’s life. That same year, Murphy’s class took a trip to the Wax Museum in New York City.
“Why don’t we do the same thing?” Murphy asked.
She believed this was a neat idea, but wanted to put her own twist on it.
Murphy thought, why not have the students research these famous people, dress up as them, but pose without moving? This was when the Resurrection Wax Museum assignment was born.
Murphy, in her 47th and final year of teaching, has the done this assignment with the eighth grade for a couple of years now, so it’s safe to say they have it down to a science. But that doesn’t mean the assignment didn’t pose questions in the beginning of how exactly she wanted to shape it.
Students, of course, have all different interests, so the first challenge became who would select the famous person.
“I thought, if they pick somebody they admired, they would do a better job because they would know what to look for,” said Murphy. “And it gives them that chance to dress up and be somebody famous.”
In addition to dressing up as these famous individuals for a day, the assignment includes writing a research paper, filling out a tri-fold poster board with pictures and bullet points about the famous person’s life, and standing still.
The students’ creativity amazes Murphy and the staff at Resurrection each year. One year, a girl dressed up as Dian Fossey, American primatologist and conservationist, and made her own tropical forest with her display. Another year, a boy in the class dressed up as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and was able to make a wheelchair that resembled the ones that were commonplace in society during his time as president.
This year, one of the standout displays was Edgar Allan Poe.
Ian McCauley, an avid reader of Poe’s poetry, donned a fake mustache, a tie and an old-fashioned writing utensil, equipped with a desk at his station.
Although it may be appear to be a lot of work, McCauley’s favorite part was dressing up as Poe.
“Doing the costume was amazing,” said McCauley. “I do theater in my spare time so doing this was just amazing.”
McCauley stated how, for the past couple of years, his classmates have been looking forward to this moment and thankful that they have continued it.
“Everyone loves this,” says McCauley. “Everyone got excited for it.”
The students have enjoyed participating in the assignment, but it also brings pleasure to the students who get to observe.
Third-grade teacher Teresa Lamberti states how each year her students are ecstatic to see whom they will get to see in the gymnasium.
“In third grade, it’s really important, they pretty much start studying social studies, so my kids like to see people that we talked about this year and they just came over to me and said, ‘I saw, I saw, I saw,’ ” said Lamberti. “So they really do like it.”
The parents of the children also get a kick out of the hard work their children put into the assignment.
Pre-K aide Jackie Gambino has a daughter who participated in the wax museum this year. Her daughter dressed up as Eliza Hamilton because of her infatuation with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton.
“They’re very excited,” said Gambino. “As you can see, they put a lot of work and effort and thought into their costumes of the person that they chose.”
When the students from other grades approach the gymnasium, Murphy rings a bell so the students know it’s time to get into character and stand still.
“When I ring the bell, they jump right into position,” said Murphy.
To this day, Murphy appreciates the kind words from faculty, parents and even past students who come back to show their appreciation.
“And they’ll come back… remember when we did the wax museum?,” said Murphy. “They love it.”
Although this is Murphy’s final year teaching, she hopes Resurrection continues with the project. ••
John Cole can be reached at JCole@bsmphilly.com