South Hamilton Elementary offers scenes from history

June 02, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- John Wilkes Booth took aim at the back of the president's head, then stood stock still for a few minutes as a narrator recounted the events of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.

Having taken his "One small step for (a) man. One giant leap for mankind," Neil Armstrong stared off into the universe as a group of students listened to a retelling of the 1969 lunar landing.

Those were two American moments brought to still life Monday at the 10th annual South Hamilton Elementary Third Grade Historical Wax Museum.

"Third grade is where they get their first real dose of American history," teacher Greg Powanda said. His goal is to plant the seed of interest in the nation's history, he said.


"The past affects the present and, therefore, the future," said Powanda, who has been involved in the project since its inception a decade ago.

The first tableau vivant - a representation of a scene by people in costume, posing silently without moving - depicted Washington crossing the Delaware, the narrator informing a class of touring students that future presidents James Monroe and James Madison also made the trip. Monroe was featured in the next, a staging of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, where he helped craft the Bill of Rights.

The burning of Chambersburg by Confederate raiders in 1864 was featured in one tableau, with a student narrator noting the rebels demanded $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency. When the ransom was not forthcoming, they put the town to the torch, destroying the courthouse and hundreds of buildings and homes, a loss calculated at more than $1.6 million.

In the next room, Henry Ford rolled out the first of 15.5 million Model Ts in 1908. Assembly line mass production dropped the price from $950 to just $280 at one point, the narrator said.

The Oct. 12, 2000, suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen that killed 17 sailors, including two from Washington County, and wounded 39 more was depicted. Those convicted of complicity in the bombing were either released by the Yemeni government or allowed to escape, according to the narration.

The tour ended on an up note, a tribute to the 16 million people who passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954 on their way to citizenship. The students sang along with a recording of "American Idol" runner-up David Archuleta performing Neil Diamond's "Coming to America."

The seed appeared to have been planted with many of the students, although the lessons will need further nurturing.

Student Daveed Montha said he learned that Ford was "the guy that made the first non-horse carriage."

Kelsey Thornton was closer to the mark when she said Ford introduced mass production to the automobile industry.

Terry Young said he learned Armstrong "wore a weird helmet," while Morgan Funk, the girl wearing that helmet, said the astronaut traveled through space to plant the flag on the moon.

The students did all the background art, tracing and coloring images projected on the wall, Powanda said. Scenes depicting Betsy Ross, Davy Crockett, Rosa Parks, John Brown, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King Jr. were featured in previous years, Powanda said.

Guided tours of the wax museum will be Wednesday from 9 to 11:15 a.m. and from 12:30 to 2:15 p.m.

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