Studio Forsyth: Historic figures come to life at Lakeside Middle School's annual Living Museum
Lounging comfortably against a table in a dim Lakeside Middle School classroom, a seventh-grade version of Harry Houdini, resplendent in a black suit and shiny metal handcuffs, animatedly told passersby about the magician’s life and accomplishments before reverting back to a frozen statue-like state.
Thursday and Friday morning, in classrooms throughout the upper wing of the school, actors, presidents, athletes, doctors and a myriad of other historical figures like Houdini sat waiting for parents and elementary school students participating in the ninth annual Lakeside Middle School Living Museum event to come and hear about their character.
“The idea is to look at people that have positively impacted America," said Lakeside science teacher Jessica Davis. “They have practiced their speeches, written their speeches and they are preforming them today."
Davis said that between Thursday and Friday more than 400 seventh-grade students will do their best to portray a person from history that they picked out as someone that positively impacted the United States, each student researching their character, making their own costume, preparing a presentation and preforming it for anyone who might be interested.
Sophi Zagarella, the student portraying Houdini, the legendary magician, said that she picked him because he was different from the other people in her time period and seemed like a nice person.
"I thought he was an interesting person," Zagarella said. "He would pay anyone $100 to give him handcuffs he couldn’t escape from, even the local police. And he never had to pay anyone."
Zagarella ended her presentation with a flourishing bow and the words, "The show must go on!"
According to Julie Stephens, special education department chair at Lakeside, what makes this event so special and interesting for the students is that it puts the project in their hands and lets them explore their passion.
“What it really does for them is it brings these historical figures to life for them, and they just become so engaged with it,” Stephens said. “Then they pick up all these different interesting facts, so it just solidifies history in their minds. They just love it."
Davis said that beyond helping to reinforce history lessons, the project helps students form connections between social studies, language arts and other subjects.
“This is a look at how the connection between language arts science and social studies can build together, and that we are not all separate entities in a classroom,” Davis said.
Davis added that over the course of the two days of presentations, hundreds of fourth- and fifth-grade students from Haw Creek and Mashburn elementary schools came to Lakeside to see the presentations, along with parents and other community members.
“So it's also a good way to get our community involved, get our parents involved, and to get our elementary feeder schools involved so they can see what the middle school is about," she said.
She said that since the program has been a school tradition for years, many students who presented this year once came to Lakeside as a fourth- or fifth-grader to see presentations.
"I think it's cool because a lot of these kids came over when they were in fifth-grade, so they are excited when we get to it, they are like 'Yeah! We get to do this," Davis said. “They have an idea of what it's all about, they know how much work goes into it, and I think it's progressively gotten better every year."