Wheeler Middle School students bring historical figures to life

2013-05-24T18:30:00Z 2013-05-24T23:31:11Z Wheeler Middle School students bring historical figures to lifeDiane Poulton Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 24, 2013 6:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | Kings, presidents, astronauts, movie stars, singers and other historic icons came to life Thursday at Colonel John Wheeler Middle School’s fourth annual Day at the Wax Museum.

Many hours of research and creativity went into students’ portrayals of 145 characters from various historical time frames.

This year a "character spotlight" every 10 minutes featured onstage performances by students including: Michael Jackson’s "Thriller;" Whitney Houston's "Dance with Somebody;" Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

History teacher Dennis Bunda, the creator and organizer of the event, said Col. John Wheeler Middle School is now known for this activity.

“No one else in the area does this,” Bunda said. “All of the school is involved, including students, faculty and administration."

Bunda said he previously taught for 17 years at Crown Point High School, where he held a similar program titled Let’s be a Medieval.

“I was driving to work one day, and I thought what can I do down at the middle school which is as effective,” Bunda said. “So we started this wax museum. Our kids like dressing up. They like acting out things in class. So I said, "Let’s put on a museum presentation for the school.'”

Bunda said the presentation was tweaked each year into its current big production. Preparation for the project, which includes a speech and written paper, starts in January. The faculty is involved behind the scenes with ideas, helping design and create costumes and art for the tri-fold boards, Bunda said.

“This is an extension of the classroom,” Bunda said. “Any time you re-enact something or live out history, it’s a good thing,” Bunda said. “It is student-centered learning. Students have said to me they have learned more from this activity than anything they have done in class.”

In addition to learning how to write a paper, how to present and re-enact something, they learn about building confidence and character, Bunda said.

“I have had high schoolers come back and say, 'I am now ready for presentation speaking,'” Bunda said. “'Now I am more confident in my classes.'”

Many staff members also were dressed as historical characters. Grade school students came to see the exhibits, stopping to ask the middle school students questions about the historical figures they chose to represent.

“I didn’t envision that it would be as big as this,” Bunda said. “But it just kind of snowballed. I anticipate every year it is going to get bigger.”

English teacher Brian Popiela said each year the program continues to improve.

“The students really put a great effort into trying to learn about all these people in history,” Popiela said. “They do a great job presenting to the community.”

Last year, at the end of the day of the Wax Museum project, kids were in tears because it signifies the end of their middle school years,  Bunda said.

“They said, ‘We put so much energy into this that when it is over, it is like wow, it is,'" he said.

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