Wax Museum Project Ideas for Upper Elementary Kids

Host a wax museum in your classroom! First, pinpoint a group of people. Second, set guidelines. Third, ask kids to research and select 10 memorable events. From their timelines, students write monologues. After a bit of practice and costume selection, they’re ready to present.

Ms. Sneed Plans a Biography Unit

As usual, our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, sat at the back table with her co-teacher. “Biography unit up next!” she exclaimed.

“Right,” replied Mr. Frank. “We can begin with picture books, like last year. Do you want kids to report with this organizer?” He pulled a paper out of the folder in front of him.

Ms. Sneed nodded. “I noticed that the teacher who created that now has a free set of biography lesson plans.” She pulled them up on her laptop.

“Three weeks. That’s about right for us,” said Mr. Frank. “I like the idea of using those templates for some crafts and research activities.”

“I would like them to read a full-length biography too. For that, we could ask kids to play bingo with the choice boards.”

“Look at this!” exclaimed Mr. Frank. “The unit culminates with a wax museum! I’ve always wanted to try one of these! Do you think we can do it?”

Ms. Sneed’s eyes sparkled, “You bet!”

Plan a living history museum project for your fourth or fifth grade classroom. Kids research a famous person, write a monologue, then dress up and present. It's a wax museum come to life!

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Choosing a Group of Famous People

“Hmm. It says to narrow our list of people. I never thought of that. Here’s a whole list of possibilities. Presidents? That would be cool. It reminds me of that wax museum at Disney. Athletes?”

“How about famous people from our state?” Ms. Sneed asked. “That way, we could hit our social studies standards too.”

“Perfect.”

Setting the Guidelines

Next, the two teachers looked over a list of potential requirements.

Teachers, you can choose guidelines from this list. It will help you select requirements for reading, research, products, and presentation.

“We already agreed that our students will read a full-length biography,” Mr. Frank remarked.

“Yes. After they read, I would like them to list ten important events and turn it into a timeline.”

“Then they’ll turn the timeline into a monologue, throw together a costume, and we’ll be ready to rock and roll!”

“Where do you think we should hold this living history event?” Ms. Sneed asked. “I was thinking maybe the cafeteria.”

“That’s a great idea,” her co-teacher responded. “You know how the tables fold upright? Kids could stand on either side of it to present. It would look just like a museum exhibit!”

The two teachers chattered excitedly. In no time they had customized the lesson plans to fit their needs – and planned their first wax museum project.

Ms. Sneed’s Students Get Started

The room buzzed with excitement. “Today’s the day we pick our people!”

Ms. Sneed held a jar full of craft sticks. “Has everyone chosen at least three famous people from our state?” she asked. “Remember, they have to be on the list of books we have in our school library.” Everyone nodded.

“Okay. Here we go!” She pulled a stick and looked at the name written on it. “Charlie!”

Charlie jumped up. As he made his way to the whiteboard in the front of the room, he high-fived a few friends. Then he wrote the name of his first choice: Neil Armstrong.

After all of the students had selected their famous people, the group headed to the library to check out their biographies.

Listing Important Events

A few weeks later, Ms. Sneed again stood in front of her class. “Now that you’ve read your biographies, it’s time to list important events in the person’s life.” She distributed a page with “Ten Events” typed at the top.

“Do we have to fill in all ten?” asked a girl with white glasses.

“Yep. You’ll need a complete set of events in order to write your monologue.”

Before your students write their monologues for your class wax museum, have them list ten important events in the person's life.

The Kids Write Monologues

A few days later, the students were ready to begin their monologues. Ms. Sneed displayed an example. “Let me give you a few pointers,” she said. “First, greet the audience the way the person was. Then introduce yourself as that person. Tell about the person’s life using first person perspective. It should be relatively easy. Just tell about the ten events you listed previously. Be sure to explain adversity in the person’s life, as well as their contributions. Remember to use transitions to make the sequence flow. Finally, wrap up with a conclusion. But not the person’s death. After all, you’re still up there talking…”

The students snickered. Soon, they were busy writing.

Provide an example of a monologue before your students write their own.

“As you finish your monologues, you can begin practicing. Say it in the bathroom mirror. Tell it to your teddy bear. Over and over. Tomorrow you’ll practice in pairs.”

Costumes Make the Wax Museum Realistic

The following day, as promised, Ms. Sneed paired them up. As she circulated around the classroom, lively voices told the stories of people in history. That famous teacher smile curled her lips. How wonderful to see her students so engaged!

About thirty minutes later, Ms. Sneed called her students to attention. “Let’s talk about costumes.” She displayed a picture on the screen. “Notice how this student is wearing a suit jacket and holding a hat. He’s also penciled on a mustache.”

She removed the picture and showed a different one. “And see how this student is wearing some goggles, a leather jacket, and a scarf? All of these things were borrowed from friends and family. I don’t want you to go out and purchase anything. If you can’t find something, ask me. We will get you squared away.”

Ms. Sneed continued to show examples and chat with her class. “In addition to costumes, props really make presentations realistic. See how this student has a homemade pallet and a copy of a picture by the artist she’s portraying?”

Ask kids to use simple costumes and props for your wax museum. It makes all the difference!

The Big Day

By the following week, everything was ready. “Grab your chair and your button. Then line up. Remember, as you are waiting for a visitor, stay frozen. No difficult positions, though. I don’t want anyone to feel faint. If you do, sit in your chair for a few minutes. Although our wax museum is only 40 minutes long, you will repeat your monologue many times.”

Finally, students from the two classes, dressed in an array of costumes, had positioned themselves in the cafeteria. “Welcome, parents!” Ms. Sneed called. And the much-anticipated event began.

Enjoy Teaching

Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.

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