Acting the Part

French historical icons such as fashion designer Coco Chanel, singer Edith Piaf and Gustave Eiffel, the engineer of the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower, came to life at James Wilson Young Middle School as students took part in the fourth annual Wax Meets Night at the Museum. During the event, the school’s 45 eighth-grade French students embodied a historic French individual of their choosing. After a visitor tapped their "activation buttons" and brought them to life, the students recited prepared monologues about the life and historical impact of their person.

“This event allows students to learn about French culture and history while honing public speaking skills,” said French teacher Gilles Desrochers.

Prior to the event, the students completed preliminary research on personal areas of interest to find the character they’d like to learn about and depict. The students then completed a two-week research project under the guidance of school media specialist Kelly Noeldechen, who provided them with research strategies, instructions on how to document their sources and help creating a final Internet project consisting of music, information on the character and a timeline. This year, the students used MovieMaker as their primary software. Throughout the project, the students learned how to sift through the information they uncovered, evaluate their sources and decide on what separates fact from fiction.
“This is purely a class-motivated activity to provide an alternative method of learning through character research and presentation,” said Mr. Desrochers. “I find public speaking an essential tool as students move forward in their educational careers and beyond; this helps to begin that process.”