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Push a button -- history comes alive

St. Bonaventure students animate early American figures

DAVIE | History, technology and dress-up merged at St. Bonaventure School as a fifth-grade teacher designed an immersive exercise in learning.

Dressing as Revolutionary War figures are, from left, Sofia Perez as Nancy Hart, Miguel Martinez as General Charles Cornwallis and Hannah Pescatore as Mary Draper.

Photographer: Vilma Angulo

Dressing as Revolutionary War figures are, from left, Sofia Perez as Nancy Hart, Miguel Martinez as General Charles Cornwallis and Hannah Pescatore as Mary Draper.

At a show for families and classmates, the students stood silently next to iPads, dressed in the military coats and flowing dresses of the 18th century. Whenever someone pressed the button on each iPad screen, the student "came alive" and told a one-minute monologues on his or her historical character.

Their name for the show: Early America Wax Museum.

The unusual show was the idea of social studies teacher Sheila Pamplin, who, like other teachers, was casting about for a way to interest her students in history.  She knew she had a challenge: In December, a poll of her two classes revealed that most of the 62 students thought history was boring.

"I made the decision to bring history to life by creating a wax museum that would allow the students to portray important characters in Early American history," Pamplin said.  "This allowed the students to feel more connected to what they were learning."

An iPad, loaded with the Glogger app, tells a little about each character that the students are potraying.

Photographer: Vilma Angulo

An iPad, loaded with the Glogger app, tells a little about each character that the students are potraying.

She assigned students their parts before the class started the class unit on America's first 30 years. Among the assignments:

  • Mia Chang as Catherine Moore Barry, who spied on British troops for the Continental Army.
  • Sofia Perez as Nancy Hart, who helped rid Georgia of British Loyalists.
  • Miguel Martinez as General Charles Cornwallis, the British officer who surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia, ending the Revolutionary War.
  • Hannah Pescatore as Mary Draper, who offered food, hospitality, clothing and ammunition to the revolutionary patriots.
  • Steven Blakely as Nathanael Greene, one of the most skilled generals of the Revolutionary Army.

Pamplin had each student research their character, then write a one-minute monologue from the character's viewpoint.  The students also created multimedia "posters"  on their iPads, using a new app called Glogster. Each poster showed a picture and fast facts about the character, plus a voice recording by the student giving a quote from the character.

St. Bonaventure student Mia Chang dresses as Revolutionary War figure Catherine Moore.

Photographer: Vilma Angulo

St. Bonaventure student Mia Chang dresses as Revolutionary War figure Catherine Moore.

The students themselves said they got a lot out of the project. Michaela Feddes said she enjoyed researching Dolley Madison, the wife of President James Madison. But her favorite part was making the presentation.

"I couldn’t stop thinking about how this performance was going to turn out," she said. "I am very happy to have participated in the outstanding performance and proud for what I have accomplished.”

Mia Chang, who portrayed Catherine Moore Barry, valued the project for the new knowledge. "It taught us how our country had its beginning and that with hope and faith they could win the war. Women also had a chance to prove that their contributions to the war effort was just as significant as that of the men.”

Sheila Pamplin, the teacher, indulged herself in a little pride, too. "Students were able to use their savvy technology skills to bring history into the 21st century," she said.

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