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Living History at Butler Elementary - from The Messenger

February 18, 2023

Authors, scientists, royalty, animators and activists from throughout history came alive in the cafeteria at Butler Elementary School on Friday afternoon. The Fifth Grade Book Club hosted a living wax museum for their families and other visitors.

The museum curator is Connie Gruver, also known as the book club leader. Gruver, a paraeducator at Butler, introduced the 19 students in the club to biographies and gave them the opportunity to pick one to read and present for the living wax museum.

Some of the historic figures selected were Marie Curie, Princess Diana, Jane Goodall, Annie Oakley, Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Tubman, Sacagawea and King Tut.

"They got to choose their person and read the biography," Gruver said. "And then they were to write a report, which is an Iowa Core standard that the fifth-graders need to do."

After the report, the students wrote a speech from the perspective of their subject to present along with a display board at the living wax museum.

Gruver said she reached out to the students' parents to let them know of the project and to ask for their help with costumes and props.

"I also advised that they didn't have to buy anything, but these parents pulled out the stops," she said. "I wanted them to work with their parents. Parents want to be involved in schooling, and the way things are, they don't always get that opportunity."

Fifth-grader Brayden Schuler, dressed in a three-piece suit and handcuffs on his wrist, told his visitors about the infamous magician and escape artist Harry Houdini. Schuler said he had heard of Harry Houdini before reading his biography, but didn't really know much about the man.

"So I figured why not learn more about him?" Schuler said.

Schuler said he learned that Houdini was born Erich Weisz in Hungary, but when his family immigrated to the United States, he changed his name to Erik Weiss. Later, he'd take the stage name Harry Houdini.

"I liked learning about someone I didn't know a lot about," Schuler said.

Fifth-grader Marley Coulter chose to read "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank.

"She had a very complicated life and she had to move around a lot," Coulter said.

Standing in a quiet corner of the cafeteria was fifth-grader Zion Craig with four gold medals hanging from his neck as he told visitors about the original "fastest man alive" - Olympian Jesse Owens.

"Even though he had to pick cotton when he was younger, he still fought to become the fastest man alive, and he had enough guts to not shake Hitler's hand," Craig said, referring to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

Craig said he was nervous about having to do public speaking at the living wax museum.

"But after the first few people, it got easier," he said.

The book club is open to Butler fifth-grade students whose benchmark tests score them beyond a fifth-grade reading level.

"We look at other skill sets like can they work by themselves independently?" Gruver said. "Would they be able to work in a small group and discuss their thoughts on the books?"

The students had six weeks to read their biographies and prepare for Friday's exhibition, Gruver said.

"I'm just super proud of the work they've done, and I think the parents are all just awesome," she said.

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