GREENFIELD — When it comes to portraying James Dean, it’s all about the hair.
So said Clayton Yates Tuesday at Greenfield Intermediate School’s living wax museum of famous Hoosiers.
“It had to be all combed and stuff,” said Clayton, 9. “My mom put mousse and some girly hair spray in it.”
Clayton, clad in a black leather jacket with a perfectly teased coiffure, was one of dozens of fourth-graders who lined the hallways at the intermediate school this week to make history come to life through an interactive museum.
Participants were divided into stations in the makeshift museum, where visitors were required to push a button – a spot drawn on the museum specimens’ hands – to bring the characters to life.
The students were assigned a five-paragraph essay about their famous Hoosier, and that essay was used to develop a short speech to give to passers-by about their character’s contribution to history.
The junior actors came prepared with posters, costumes and character-appropriate props.
Students were provided a long list of names of Hoosiers and were asked to rank their top choices. Not everyone on the list was born here, but most have strong Indiana ties.
“I’d say Peyton Manning is our most coveted,” fourth-grade teacher Rhonda Fada said.
Students put on the museum Monday night for parents and Tuesday during the day for students from neighboring Harris Elementary School.
Aidan Zumbolo, 9, drew on his own talents when portraying Bloomington native and renowned violinist Joshua Bell.
Aiden has been playing the violin for two years and entertained visitors with his rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
Savanah White went to Indianapolis to find a wig long enough so she could to pass for country singer Crystal Gayle, who was known for her floor-length locks.
Savanah settled on a long black wig she found at a party store. “It was supposed to be a witch wig,” she confided.
Savanah said she likes to sing, which was one reason she zeroed in on the former country star for her project. Gayle is known for the popular 1977 hit, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue.”
“I don’t actually do it in front of many people,” Savanah said.
Mercedes Phillips, 9, portrayed one of the most well-known celebrities of the event. As Michael Jackson, she came to school wearing the late singer’s signature white glove and black hat.
Mercedes already knew some of Jackson’s music – “Man in the Mirror” is her favorite song – thanks to her parents.
“I think he sings really good,” she said.
Marissa Grigsby posed with a football while waiting for people to come by and listen to her speech on Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Marissa, 10, admitted she isn’t all that interested in the sport that made Luck famous. Her parents, on the other hand, are big Colts fans.
“That’s why I don’t like it on Sundays because they always play that and don’t play with me,” she said. “I don’t even get it.”
Projects that allow students to interact with their subjects are always popular, Fada said.
“The kids have really learned a lot about their Hoosiers,” Fada said. “I was blown away at what they did. Even our kids who really struggle were able to buy into this.”