BRANDYWINE — Wearing a straw hat and thick glasses he couldn’t really see through, Braeden Baker gave his best impersonation of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

“He was a big inspiration for people that had disabilities,” the fifth-grader said. “He overcame having polio and just followed his dream and became president.”

It was one of many lessons the students learned in Darcy Rund’s fifth-grade class at Brandywine Elementary School. The students showcased their work Wednesday night during a special presentation called “A Night at the Wax Museum.”

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The project began with students learning how to write a biography and culminated with them dressing up in historical costumes to make a final presentation.

“I had told them about a time in the past at a different school where I had held a wax museum night, and they got so excited,” Rund said. “After that, we couldn’t not do it.”

Visitors to the wax museum made their way among the students, who stood frozen until someone pushed a button at their booth to bring them to life.

Rund said the project taught the students about reading, writing, history and adventure. It also built camaraderie.

“Their smiles are so big, and they are so excited each time they see one of their classmates come in dressed in character,” she said.

The students chose to portray major historical figures such as Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Rosa Parks, Henry Ford, Louis Armstrong and Amelia Earhart.

Fifth-grader Michaela Purnell selected Earhart because she liked the strength the pioneering aviator displayed.

“Her inspiration to fly and conquer things that men did and women didn’t do back then was what I liked,” she said.

Michaela said the project, which also called for the students to create a showcase of posters and props to go with their presentations, was one of the best projects she did all year. Her mother agreed.

“She put a whole lot of effort into this,” Alexis Purnell said. “I just think kids learn a lot better when they actually have to be involved.”

She said the students will no doubt remember dressing up and actually playing the part of a person they admired.

While some students said they were nervous having to spring into action when their parents and friends stopped by, most agreed it was a project they enjoyed from start to finish.

Fifth-grader Alex Alonzo, who portrayed Edison, had a real electric on-and-off switch he had visitors use to bring himself to life.

“Last year, we watched a movie about him; and from that moment on, I was always just interested in his life,” Alex said.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.