Spring means different things to different people and for me it’s a time to prepare for summer historical reenactments. I’m a history nerd. So it saddens me to hear people say they hate history. But I don’t blame them–those who dislike it usually weren’t taught history properly. Their only contact with history was via boring textbooks, uninspiring paper and pencil lesson plans and rote memorization of facts. Nothing could be more antithesis to the way history should be learned.
History is about more than dead people long past. It’s a medium for learning new ideas and processes. It’s a vehicle for change. History lesson plans should include historical reenactment, cultural immersion and student-directed, hands-on history activities. Students should experience history activities through all five senses. They should engage in interactive history activities. Then they begin to see the big picture. Here are cross-curricular history activities that teach reading, writing, speaking, research, art and drama. Students will create tableaux for historical reenactment in the Living History Wax Museum.
How to create a living history wax museum: Have students choose figure for historical reenactment from whatever social studies content you’re studying: exploration, colonial period, a country, inventions, mythology. Kids should research their person, her life, work and lifestyle. Another living history variation is a cultural diversity wax museum, where students represent famous people who share their ancestry. Students might choose literary figures or famous characters of their heritage for historical reenactment. Then students will create a living history tableaux with a costume, props, artifacts and an appropriate backdrop for historical reenactment of their chosen figure.
Individual tableaux will be set up like wax museum exhibits that guests will visit. Arrange living history exhibits in a multipurpose room, series of smaller classrooms, along a hallway or outdoors. Divide tableaux with portable partitions or use large cardboard pieces to create individual niches for each students tableaux. Each student should have a table to display props. Organize work days for students to construct props/backdrops. Provide paper, recycled materials and large cardboard boxes.
Next, students should write a 1-2 minute first-person script in the character’s voice. Encourage them to include interesting biographical details and vignettes. Their historical reenactment should end with a quote from their chosen person. Have students practice their narratives with each other and provide each other with feedback. Students should memorize their monologue and recite it to guests who come to the wax museum.
Have students write a transcript of their speech. Assemble narratives into a printed booklet for guests to take home. Attach a map noting where each child is located. Encourage younger guests to collect “autographs” on their programs. Save programs for student portfolios. Have students invite guests and create promotional advertising for their living history project and wax museum. During the performance, guests travel from character to character. It could be done onstage as a pageant, but booths where guests can circulate is more informal and comfortable for families with small children or senior grandparents.
Encourage kids to be prepared for questions from guests. Place a notebook at each booth so visitors can leave responses. Consider using feedback to determine overall living history project grade. Grades should reflect creativity and participation. Extend lesson plans by having students create foods from their time period or country to to serve as refreshments. For more historical lesson plans and living history activities, you can visit this blog Free Lesson Plans 4U.