Dressed in 1800s garb and holding props, the wax figures stood silently in the hallway of Wilmot Elementary School.
Parents stood before them and pressed a button, and the figures came to life, telling tales of long-ago Colorado. Once the wax figures were done with recitations of their parts in history, they returned to statue form.
The wax figures were the fourth-graders at the school, and they were part of the annual Colorado Characters Wax Museum, the culmination of the Colorado history unit. They performed their speeches for parents and friends on Feb. 23, with a dress rehearsal earlier that day.
From Mother Cabrini to Molly Brown, William Bent to Zebulon Pike, a huge cast of Colorado historical characters came to life. On the wall behind each figure was a poster with information about the person’s contribution to the state.
Some of the names were more familiar than others, because their names are part of present-day Colorado, such as Emily Griffith, Baby Doe Tabor and Mary Elitch Long.
Other names were much less familiar: woman’s suffrage advocate Carrie Chapman Catt, explorer John Charles Fremont and former slave-turned-businesswoman Clara Brown.
Students researched their characters and created the biography posters, according to fourth-grade teacher Kathleen Langowski. They wrote and memorized their speeches, created their costumes and props.
The biography posters included such information as describing the historical figure in five words, providing facts about the person’s life, quoting the person, and drawing several frames from a movie about the person’s life.
The students’ presentations were filled with details.
Student Nevaeh Scott portrayed Justina Ford, the first African-American doctor in Denver. Ford was an obstetrician, and because she was not allowed to practice medicine at Denver General Hospital, she started a clinic in her home. She knew seven languages, according to Nevaeh, and delivered 7,000 babies.
Nevaeh was dressed in a long skirt and white blouse, with a stethoscope around her neck. She was holding a baby doll in her arms.
Katherine Vermeulen portrayed Molly Brown, who was known for her courage, especially surviving the sinking of the Titanic. According to Katherine, Brown was involved in the women’s suffrage movement and helped establish the first juvenile court in Colorado.
Ryan Buenger portrayed William Bent, who was a friend to the Cheyenne Indians. Bent oversaw the building of four forts, one of which is Bent’s Fort near Pueblo. He was known as a peacemaker with the Native Americans.
Teachers and parents agreed that the wax museum was a great way for the children to learn about Colorado history.
“It’s fantastic,” said Michele Franey, a part-time Wilmot teacher whose daughter Katy is a fourth-grader. “They learn so much. They love getting into character. It’s a great way to learn the history of Colorado.”
Parent Annie Coppock agreed: “I love how the kids really get into it. They put so much effort into their characters.”