The goal of any lesson is to make sure that the students understand a concept - can third grade students tell the difference between a noun and an adjective; can fourth grade students name the state bird. But when Ms. Anita Petersen, fifth grade science teacher at St. Pius X / St. Leo School, was working on a lesson about famous scientists, she wanted the concept to be about more than just science. She also wanted to give her students a chance to give back to the community. And just like that, the Famous Scientists Wax Museum was created.
Fifth grade students at SPSL have been hosting the Famous Scientists Wax Museum for the last 10 years. It is the culmination of a science project where the students pick a famous scientist to research and create a one minute speech to present to their classmates. Over two months, Ms. Petersen will help the students as they work in the classroom, computer lab, and library to compile their research and create a PowerPoint presentation focused on the life of their famous scientist and their major contribution to the world.
After the fifth grade students present to their classmates, students from kindergarten to eighth grade are invited to hear their presentations at the Wax Museum. The fifth grade students, dressed as their famous scientist, stand in the parish center like wax statues. Each student has a (recycled) collection can that a quarter can be dropped in to. The quarter will ‘activate’ the scientists and they will recite their presentation. The students will repeat their presentation each time a quarter is deposited.
Students in kindergarten to eighth grade are encouraged to save their quarters and bring them to school to use at the Wax Museum. Fifth grade students also invite their family members to visit the Wax Museum and see all their hard work in action. The kindergarten students love listening to Albert Einstein with his crazy hair, and Orville and Wilbur Wright as they talk about their first flight. The Wax Museum is also a time to learn about less familiar scientists such as Archimedes and Ada Lovelace.
So where in all of this are the students giving back to the community? All of the money raised from the Famous Scientists Wax Museum is donated to the St. Pius X / St. Leo School Adopt-A-Family program – a program created to provide assistance to families in need. In 2016, when all the money was counted, the Wax Museum raised $1365 that was distributed to SPSL families before Christmas.
Research, public speaking, recycling, keyboarding, and charity – those are the concepts the fifth grade students take away from the Famous Scientists Wax Museum. They also walk away from the project with a sense of pride. Pride not only that they learned enough about a scientist to become him or her for a day, but also for helping out their fellow classmates in a very meaningful way.
St. Pius X / St. Leo is one of 70 schools in the Archdiocese of Omaha committed to awakening greatness in its students. Learn more on our schools page.