By Amy Batista, Special Writer
CRANBURY – Wax sculptures of living and historic figures looked eerily realistic during the wax museum held at Cranbury School last Thursday.
That is, until one realizes the sculptures were actually more than 68 seventh-graders portraying the figures ranging from Vin Scully, Sergey Brin, George Lucas to Louis Armstrong, Gabby Douglas, to Jacqueline Kennedy.
“Nearly 30 years, it was founded by Carol Malouf, former chief school administrator, while she was an English teacher at Cranbury School,” said English teacher Elizabeth Grimaldi, the organizer of the event in an email on Tuesday.
The event was held Feb. 11 in the classrooms. Students could be found in six different rooms, and guests were invited to sit and listen as each student performed their person.
“There was a two to three minute time limit,” said Ms. Grimaldi. “Everyone’s written draft was approximately the same length.”
She said that students performed the galleries during the day for other students in grades K-6, who visited the galleries on a rotation schedule throughout the day.
Ms. Grimaldi said that the project had multiple elements and addressed three main domains from the English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core Standards anchors: writing, reading and speaking/listening.
“The students research the life of a famous person and write a three- to four-page research paper with bibliography, compose an original monologue, design a full color poster, and perform the memorized monologue for a group of adults and children,” she said.
Seventh-grader Daniel Li portrayed Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, Inc., who “brought a small idea into a reality.”
“I selected him because I wanted to get deeper into the subject of computer pioneers,” he said.
He said he learned that Mr. Brin only went to high school and college for three years each, making him very advanced.
“At a young age, I developed an interest in math, computers, and science,” he said during the event. “As a gift one day when I was nine, I received my first computer. I then went onto use this computer to expand my interests and learn more about the growing world of technology.”
Daniel described the wax museum experience as “a weird feeling when it was your turn to get up and talk.”
“A surge of adrenaline gets to you and you get really excited,” he said. “Sometimes, it can be good and bad. You could speak to fast and mess up, but you could also show lots of enthusiasm for the subject.”
It was a one-of-a-kind experience, he added.
“The actual performances may be nerve-racking, but it is actually very fun,” he said. “My advice to future wax museum performers, six graders and below, is to never sweat over it and give the performance all you’ve got.”
Seventh-grader Josiah Pettway portrayed John Coltrane, an American jazz saxophonist and composer.
“Though I am not notably better than other kids in the musical field, I have a passion for music,” he said. “I could see something in John Coltrane that nobody else could. I saw his resilience and perseverance.”
He said that John Coltrane’s life was filled was adversity and sorrow. “However, he still persevered through his struggles,” Josiah said.
For him, the highlight of the event was pretending to be someone who you know was very successful in their time just brings a smile to his face.
“Everything about it was great,” he said. “It was overall a really great, educational experience.”
Seventh-grader William Novak portrayed Louis Armstrong, American jazz trumpeter, composer and singer.
“I selected Louis Armstrong because I love music and the trumpet,” he said. “I especially love playing jazz, which Louis Armstrong is most known for.”
He said that jazz is also one of the only music genres that originated in America and I was interested in finding one of the key foundations to it.
“I believe that improvisation and musical feeling are what separate the great musicians from the average musicians,” he said.
Louis Armstrong was known for taking rhythms and arranging them in a way that made them unique to his name, he added.
“Louis Armstrong’s number one hit, ‘Hello Dolly!’ reached the top of the billboards years after the prime of his career, even replacing the Beatles,” he said.
For William, the highlight was having the opportunity to present interesting and important information in a performance-like way.
“I enjoyed being able to choose a person specific to me and that I could connect with,” he said.
He said it was fun being able to perform in front of an audience that knew only the surface of your selected person.
“I enjoyed being able to wow them with information that they didn’t already know,” he said. “Our classmates taught us about their person each day throughout the Wax Museum process,” he said.
For Ms. Grimaldi, the highlight of the evening the was seeing the pride, poise, and polish as well as the look of self-confidence on the faces of the students as they shared their knowledge with their parents.
“This is one of the highlights of the middle school experience at Cranbury School,” she said. “It celebrates tradition and history, unites the upper and lower schools, and provides the students with an opportunity to honor the lives of people who served our world in unique ways through their gifts skills.”
By Amy Batista, Special Writer