It was like walking into a history book.
George Washington was barking out marching orders, Rosa Parks was riding a bus. Nearby, Claude Monet painted a water garden scene, and Davy Crockett watched for wild animals.
In the gymnasium at St. Joan of Arc School in South Toledo last week, students portrayed famous people, dead or alive, as they presented a wax museum, an annual rite of spring for the school's fifth-grade classes.
"That's a good-looking George Washington," said Elizabeth Beach of Maumee as her grandson Jason Crowley of South Toledo posed for passers-by.
"This is my first time to attend the event and I am really impressed," she said. "I am taken aback by the elaborate costumes. All the kids went all out and did fine jobs."
Jason told visitors that George Washington loved ice cream, liked to play pool and cards, and turned down a third term as president. He paused to calm his nerves as he recited his character's information.
Capturing a breath of bravery, he plowed on. As he concluded, he said: "And now I give you a dollar," and then handed people fake $1 bills.
Jason's costume was pretty authentic-looking for a classroom project. He said it was purchased from an online store, and the pretend gun was purchased at Fort Meigs. "We got it for five bucks because it has a crack in it," he said.
Students fussed over their costumes as well as their props, trying to stay true to their characters. Girls have been known to pick out their favorite characters to portray based on whether they would look cute in the costumes, and boys favor coolness-factor costumes and props (hunting rifles, swords, etc.)
Madeline Cronin, 11, of Maumee portrayed Ruth Handler, who dreamed up the idea for a doll named Barbie. The student's professional-looking attire - jacket, skirt, jewelry - was left over from a Halloween costume the year she dressed up as Sarah Palin.
As Rosa Parks, Diyepriye Ngo of Maumee wore a yellow measuring tape around her neck as a way to emphasize the outstanding sewing skills of the woman who has been described as the "mother of the modern-day civil rights movement."
As she portrayed the civil rights activist, Diyepriye stood behind a cardboard cutout of bus No. 2857. The student said that was the number on the bus when Mrs.
Parks refused a bus driver's order to give up her seat for a white passenger.
Students started their wax museum projects just after the Christmas break, fifth-grade teacher Cindy Kurtz said.
Classes traveled to the Main Library downtown and selected books to read about their characters. Students were allowed to submit three names of famous people for consideration, and teachers made sure there weren't duplicates when final selections were made, Ms. Kurtz said.
A pot of jerky was part of the props for Daniel Boone, portrayed by Patrick Parodi, 10, of Maumee. Asked about what kind of jerky the trail-blazing pioneer made, Patrick said Daniel Boone would hunt down baby animals for food. Um, wait, baby animals? "No, no. Grownups," Patrick quickly corrected himself. He selected his character "because I thought it was cool that he discovered the Cumberland Gap."
Bridget Reed, 11, of Maumee clutched a large lollipop as she told visitors about her character, Shirley Temple Black, who sang and danced in many movies and later served as an ambassador. Bridget played the part while wearing tap shoes, a polka dot dress, and a curly wig.
At a nearby exhibit, water lilies floated in a pool of water, surrounded by pots of blooming tulips and hyacinths. Claude Monet, one of the most famous French painters, dabbled at an easel where bottles of yellow, blue, orange, and purple paint were lined up in a tray. A brush soaked in a cup of water.
Wearing a mascara-made beard, the St. Joan of Arc student explained why he selected Monet as his wax museum character. "Because of his name," said Marc Monnette of Holland. "Monet, Monnette. It sounded like a good idea."