February 25, 2012 in Washington Voices

Freeman students portray each of nation’s 44 presidents

By The Spokesman-Review
Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo

Jarom Cobb, portraying President Andrew Jackson, sits still and waits for a visitor during the presidential “wax museum” Wednesday at Freeman Elementary School.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

On the Web: See more photos by photographer Jesse Tinsley of Freeman Elementary students during Presidents Day Wax Museum at www.spokesman.com/picture-stories/

The announcement was met with a groan of disappointment from the crowd.

“Abraham Lincoln is sick today,” said Nancy McCathern, a para-educator at Freeman Elementary School. The absence may have been disappointing, but there were 43 other presidents on hand to make up for the loss of the 16th president.

Wednesday afternoon was the sixth annual Presidents Day Wax Museum at the school. The second-graders from Tracy Edwards’ and Dustin Reed’s classes were each assigned a president. They learned about when he lived, when he served as commander in chief and a fun fact they chose that interested the student.

At Wednesday’s event, the students dressed up as their assigned president, found a chair and sat as still as a second-grader can. Parents and other classmates approached each president, pressed a sticker on the back of the students’ hand and the president stood to tell his story.

McCathern began organizing the event after hearing stories about other schools trying similar projects.

“The kids love it,” she said. There are second-graders representing every president from George Washington to Barack Obama, and eight presidents with two students representing them. With 27 students in each second-grade class, some needed to double up.

The students gathered in the school’s multipurpose room and lined up for a group picture. Most of them sported black jackets that were so big the hems hit their knees. A couple of earlier presidents donned powdered wigs, white tights and knee-length pants and shoes with large silver buckles.

One of the students playing Bill Clinton carried a cardboard cut-out of a saxophone.

“Presidents,” McCathern told the students, “turn to wax. When someone presses your button, stand up, smile, say what you need to say and sit down.”

Superintendent Randy Russell stopped by not only to hear from all the students, but to see his own son, Ryan, play the part of Woodrow Wilson.

“Isn’t this awesome?” Russell asked. “It’s great for the kids.”

He said the students not only learn about each of the presidents and what they were known for, but also the history surrounding the time of the presidents’ terms of office.

President Richard M. Nixon was portrayed by a blond girl wearing a blue suit with a tie and slicked-back hair. She told anyone who approached her that the 37th president was in office when man first landed on the moon and at the end of the Vietnam War.

Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, was played by a shy student wearing a big, red curly wig.

“I had three sons who died at the age of 12,” Pierce said. He was also the only president from theNew Hampshire.

William H. Harrison was president in 1841. The ninth president only served for one month before he became the first president to die in office.

“Did you know that I was a slave owner?” the president asked.

George Washington, known as the father of our country, was the only president to have a 100 percent approval rating.

The students all had tidbits of trivia to add to the character of their president. President Jimmy Carter is the only president to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after leaving office. President Barack Obama likes to play basketball. President George W. Bush has twin daughters.

The students stuck to their scripts, with a little help from volunteers. McCathern warned visitors to their museum not to ask the presidents any questions, since they were statues.

The students didn’t get to choose which president they would portray, but certainly learned a lot about them. Everyone has their own opinion about recent presidents, but all of the visitors didn’t mind crossing party lines to hear from each one.

“No one has ever complained,” McCathern said of the assignments.

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