History comes to life

Students portray the best — and worst — of humanity


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Birchwood ABC fifth grader Timmy Arledge poses as George Washington during the school’s “Night at the Smithsonian” event on Wednesday, May 2.

MATT TUNSETH

History came to life at Birchwood ABC Elementary on May 2.

That night, the school’s fifth- and sixth-grade students transformed themselves into walking, talking versions of some of the most important figures in world history for the school’s “Night at the Smithsonian” event.

“I let them pick anyone in history, as long as that person had an impact in some way,” said teacher Rick Smith.

Students were tasked with picking someone from history and learning everything they could about that person’s life and times. Then, when parents and friends arrived at the school, each student was challenged with stepping into the role of their historical figure for the evening.

Among the famous — and infamous — faces roaming the school’s hallways were presidents, inventors, patriots, an astronaut and perhaps the most hated person in world history.

Sixth grader Reese Ingram said he chose to portray Adolph Hitler because of the terrible impact the German leader had on world events.

“I almost took over Russia, and I killed millions of Jews,” Ingram explained to a curious museum patron who asked about Hitler’s life.=

Dressed in a convincing Third Reich outfit, sporting a fake moustache and standing in front of a large Swastika, Ingram drew plenty of stares and questions. In keeping with event rules, Ingram dutifully answered in the character of Hitler — calmly explaining the dictator’s upbringing, rise to power and eventual downfall.

But when asked what kind of impact Hitler had on history, Ingram broke character.

“Bad,” he replied.

Not everyone chose such heavy subject matter. Sixth grader Hannah Fitzgerald said she chose to portray Mother Theresa because of the Nobel Peace Price winner’s devotion to the poor.

“She liked to help people and I like to help people,” Fitzgerald said.

Also, getting to pretend to be someone else for a night proved to put a fun twist on world history class.

“I love to act,” she said.

Other famous people on display included the likes of George Washington, John F. Kennedy, Rosa Parks, Catherine the Great, Amelia Earhart and Nicola Tesla.

Dressed in a billowing red shirt and donning a nifty beret, sixth grader Mario Zaochney said his choice of Pablo Picasso was an easy one.

“I’ve liked him for a long time,” Zaochney explained, holding a paint brush in one hand as he spoke.

A painter himself, Zaochney said getting to act like his famous idol was a thrill.

“It’s fun,” he said.

Smith said he’s been putting on the “Night at the Smithsonian” event for several years. He feels the students learn more when they’re able to get inside the mind of important historical figures.

“They really get into it,” he said.

 

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com

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