ST. ANTHONY – In the popular 2006 movie “Night at the Museum,” exhibits come to life every night and interact with each other to create enough drama for a two-hour movie.
Henry’s Fork Elementary School fifth grade teacher Liz Pope hopes to bring some of that movie magic to her annual “Henry’s Fork Elementary School Night at the Museum.” The event is scheduled from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., and again from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 7, at the school located at 425 N. 3rd West.
About 96 exhibits are planned for the event. Officials plan to rope off the displays just as if visitors were visiting a real museum. Judges will be on hand to review the exhibits, and following the event, they will award three trophies and money to the winners.
“The coolest part is that the judges are our mayor, local doctors, the police chief and people kids look up to,” she said. “The judges go through and look at everybody’s exhibit. They love it and take it so seriously.”
What’s most unique about this particular wax museum is that visitors may get a history lesson by “pressing a button” on each display. Such will “activate” students to act out their various characters’ stories.
Students will present a skit of some kind while wearing appropriate costume. They’ll also have historically accurate props and information surrounding their displays, she said.
“People visiting can push a little button, and then they (historical characters) come to life. They’ll do a skit, do an oral biography in first person and then they’ll freeze again,” Pope said. “They come up with the most clever ideas.”
This year’s Night at the Museum focuses on influential Americans both homegrown and imported, she said.
“We’ve got some famous Americans not born in America. Albert Einstein was born in Germany but is considered to be a famous American,” Pope said.
Pope’s students started working on their assignments in August. She didn’t assign the children to any particular person but instead let them decide on who to feature.
Some of the community’s favorites have been iconic characters like Lucille Ball and Rosie the Riveter. Others have included President Thomas Jefferson and Marilyn Monroe.
“We’ve had several Michael Jacksons and Elvis Presleys. We always end up with Babe Ruth, and we almost always have a current president. We don’t have a President Trump (this year), but we did have Barack Obama last time. We end up with anybody you can think of,” Pope said.
Pope notes that the museum project allows her students to be innovative.
“They’re researching, writing, creating, acting. They’re doing a lot of stuff,” she said.
Pope recalled a student and his family who built a replica of a boat where the youth told the story of George Washington crossing the Delaware.
“He stood up in the front leading the boat across the river. Whenever someone pushed the button, he started speaking ‘A little harder men; we’re almost there,’” she said.
Pope noted another student who, with his family’s help, built a Wendy’s Restaurant replica.
“He had his sister dress up as Wendy, the redhead. He was dressed up as Dave Thomas. People were just in awe,” she said.
Pope says that her students tend to gain more from this activity than they do from reading about historical events.
“I’ve found they learn so much more than they would from worksheets or questions in a book. It’s been awesome and gets better every year,” she said.
Pope got the idea for elementary school wax museums while visiting the Ripley’s “Believe It or Not!” Museum several years ago.
“I always thought this would be fun for kids to dress up and look like a (historical) character,” she said.
At that time, Pope taught at Hagerman Elementary School and opted to host a Night at the Museum for her students. Initially, youth just posed while on display and posters surrounded the students detailing information on their respective subjects. Later, after Pope saw the popular “Night at the Museum” staring the late Robin Williams, that all changed. In the movie, the exhibits become living beings and interact with each other.
“I thought it would be so fun if they all came to life and magically told their life stories,” she said.
Pope noted that other elementary schools also offer “Night at the Museum” events, and that it’s something that helps students learn more about history in a fun way. At Henry’s Fork Elementary, it proves to be the highlight of the school year. Children in younger classes look forward to eventually creating their own museum exhibit once they reach the fifth grade.
“They’re thinking what they want to be. That’s kind of helped it get better each year. There’s that anticipation that’s been growing,” she said.
Throughout the year, Pope shows youth historical movies and also invites re-enactors into her classroom.
“I have this guy and his wife who dress like they’re from the Revolutionary War. They talk to the kids and bring in their muskets,” she said.
The re-enactors also provide food and clothing from the era.
“The kids get immersed in it. Seeing the clothes, feeling the weapons and eating and seeing the food – that’s the stuff they’ll remember. It’s fun,” Pope said. “When you see a story or hear a story, it brings it to life.”
The community is invited to attend the free upcoming event. For more information, call 208-624-7422.