Steamboat Springs students bring historical figures to life |

Steamboat Springs students bring historical figures to life

Luke Graham

Strawberry Park Elementary School fifth-grader Cooper Gunn plays the role of Nikola Tesla on Thursday during rehearsal for a living wax museum. The students will play the roles from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday at the school.

— Deep in the bowels of Strawberry Park Elementary School, Jane Goodall looked Mark Zuckerberg in the eye.

Michael Jackson stood next to Al Capone.

Somehow, Coco Chanel wasn't afraid of the snake around Steve Irwin's neck or the alligator just feet away.

Toward the back of the room, John F. Kennedy spoke with authority while Harry Houdini explained a lifetime of incredible escape acts.

For Melanie Nimtz's fifth-grade class, the living wax museum gave teacher and students an interesting way to learn.

Each student was tasked with choosing a famous person who made a significant impact on society socially or through politics, the arts or science.

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As part of their projects, each student created a poem, timeline, imaginative story, research paper, bibliography and portrait as well as preparing a speech.

On Thursday, each student stood in front of his or her display in a still wax position with a paper button nearby. When a passer-by pushed the button, the student came to life and recited a speech before turning back to wax.

"I really like acting, and he laughs and smiles a lot, and I do that, too," said Emma Meyer, who chose Charlie Chaplin for her project. "It was a lot more fun than just reading a book. It all leads up to this event."

The projects were on display for a dry run ahead of the event set to take place from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Friday at the school.

This is the second year Nimtz has done the project, and she said it's been a resounding success.

She picked up the idea while teaching in Jefferson County and said the project involves different types of learning.

At the beginning of April, she did a presentation on 50 historical figures whom students didn't know. 
"I like the idea of teaching cross-curriculum," Nimtz said. "It's hitting all the different learning styles. It's the reason some of the students have bought into this."

After the presentation, the students each submitted three people on whom they might want to do the project. The students did research and read biographies to select their final topics.

And on Thursday, the characters came through.

"Writing the speech was fun," said Kyle Kagan, in his best John F. Kennedy voice. "It was like you're actually writing like you are him."

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email