Teddy Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Rosie the Riveter, these and many other historic figures visited West Elementary on Friday.

It wasn’t a post-Halloween thing, rather a fifth-grade social studies project that had students costumed in the gear these historic figures probably wore in their day, said Cindy Streetman, a fifth-grade instructor who introduced the West Elementary Living Wax Museum in 2015. The idea is kids choosing a historic figure, researching and then presenting their project in an essay and in character for a final day where classmates and others visit with them, in costume and playing the role as accurately as is possible. The program started with 38 students dressing in character; 130 made that choice this year.

“You should have heard the buzz in the room this morning,” fifth-grade teacher Clara Caudill said. “It’s a chance (for them) to show what they know. Was I surprised? Yes, we are very proud of them.”

Strolling a courtyard where these children are dressed as the characters they represent, you see George Washington, Barack Obama, DeSoto the Spanish explorer, Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks, George Custer, Princess Grace, Elvis and local cowboy legend Matt Condo, to name a sampling of who the students found to be interesting enough to undertake such a serious effort. There was also a sprinkling of historic native Americans and Hispanics, reflecting the large population of youngsters from that culture.

Streetman dressed in the character of Carol Mahler, the energized DeSoto County Historical Society representative who made a presentation to West’s fifth-graders, giving them a sense of the families building DeSoto County.

“Every year (they) figure out how they’re going to do it better,” she said of the students. “It’s going great.”

Shyann Hudson chose Rosie the Riveter for her project. Hudson, who is 10, read a short narrative of that WWII icon to the judges and other curious students parading through the gauntlet of characters.

“She was really cool,” Shyann, in a red bandana, said of the woman used to inspire as the “We Can Do It” production worker in the 1940s. “It teaches you that women can do whatever they want. Sometimes they just don’t know it.”

One young man in a mustache and spectacles seemed natural as rain in his Teddy Roosevelt gear. But Lee Jones is also the youngest member of the DeSoto County Historical Society, dropped off by his folks at age 10 so that he may become more immersed in local history. You’d almost expect Lee to roar away from West with his Rough Riders, his role as the 26th president so real.


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