Hewitt News

The Third Grade Wax Museum: Bringing Artists, Scientists, and Changemakers to Life
Alexa Collingwood and Samia Soodi, Third Grade Teachers

This March, visitors to Hewitt’s third grade classrooms found themselves rubbing elbows with a myriad of famous and vibrant women from every era of history. Guests expecting an ordinary wax museum full of motionless figures were in for a treat as the third graders, dressed as historical figures, came to life to share their stories.

Eleanor Roosevelt, former first lady and activist, was spotted deep in conversation with Misty Copeland, a principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre. Down the hall, author J.K. Rowling and artist Frida Kahlo compared notes on their creative processes, while astronaut Sally Ride and pilot Amelia Earhart shared anecdotes from their travel adventures. 

In addition to being a joyous celebration for students, faculty, and families, the wax museum is a sophisticated learning experience for Hewitt’s third graders. To prepare for the culminating event, they spent weeks choosing their subjects, researching and gathering information, and crafting biographies about everyone from Michelle Obama to Jane Goodall. After refining those biographies, students then planned an intricate wax museum to bring female artists, scientists, changemakers, and explorers to life. 

Video Highlights From the Third Grade Wax Museum

Third graders immersed themselves in narrative nonfiction, drawing on their vast repertoire of reading strategies to understand very complex texts and learn about their subject’s interests and experiences. Rather than memorize unrelated facts, the girls became experts through careful and in-depth analysis. For example, as she learned about the life and work of architect Zaha Hadid, one third grader amassed a wealth of knowledge about architecture and modern design, as well as Hadid’s home country of Iraq. Another researcher carefully examined the historical time period in which Marie Curie lived and worked, taking time to notice and reflect upon the unique challenges a female scientist faced in Europe during the 19th century. 
As they crafted biographies from their research, third graders studied well-known and beloved narrative nonfiction texts closely and concluded that their favorite biographies incorporated intriguing details and brimmed with voice and craft. As writers, they observed that biographies can be written many different ways and that each author decides what aspects of a subject’s life to focus on and emphasize. Students structured their own biographies by asking big questions, including What do I really want to teach the world about my subject? and What aspect of this person’s life do I want to showcase? After developing answers to these questions and incorporating their rich research into initial drafts, students edited and revised their work, demonstrating their independence and autonomy as writers. 

This year’s wax museum was a huge success, and the efforts of Hewitt’s third graders to teach the larger school community about the impact and legacies of a diverse array of women throughout time was truly inspiring.