Digital Wax Museum of important people

The end product of “The Digital Wax Museum of People who left their mark in our world” was indeed a digital museum. It comprised 7 rooms, each corresponding to the world of science, literature, art, music, sport and the film industry. The room of science for example contained pictures of outstanding people who had distinguished themselves in the science field. When visitors scanned the QR code under the picture, they saw a student who impersonated the personality pictured. These students showed, rather than just talk about, the life, actions and beliefs of the person being impersonated.

By Zafi Mandali

This project helped our students “meet” worthy role models and positively affected their mindsets. Students read about and got inspired by the lives of people like Malala Yousafzai, Alan Turin and many more. Their language learning in reading, speaking, writing and presenting benefited. So did their nurture through the values reflected by these personalities.

One of the challenges was ending up with convincing impersonations.  Getting students to speak, look and extend the personality of the person roleplayed was not always a piece of cake. It took creative thinking to achieve physical resemblance and drama techniques to help students talk in the manner of their acquired role. To achieve our goals, we employed a number of strategies and technologies.

The first phase was to familiarize our 6th grade students with the idea of a Digital Wax Museum.  We juxtaposed it with Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. We drew the similarities and the many differences. Our museum would not be in physical form and would not contain wax figures of personalities. Visitors would not pay entrance and would only access it online. The museum would center on personalities whose activities were relevant to activism, the fields of science, music, sport, art, literature and the film industry. The visitor would enter the room of their interest and scan the QR code provided under the picture of the person of their interest. They would then see the student who had been filmed impersonating this personality. It would all be created with Google slides.                                                                                                            

In the second Phaseof the project, we distributeda booklet with biographies of the important personalities we had chosen from the categories mentioned above. Almost all personalities shared a common feature. They had encountered difficulties which they had overcome with their stamina, perseverance and healthy perspective on life.  We also suggested that our students borrow the “Good night rebel girls” and the “Stories for boys who dare to be different” from our lending library. Students read the biographies and after careful consideration came to a decision on who to impersonate. They further googled the personality of their interest, watched relevant YouTube material and singled out their mannerisms, overall personality traits and habits.

In the third phase we asked students to morph the text on the personality they had chosen from the booklet or any other source, add their point of view and personal stamp. This required them to add, simplify, erase, shape information and to use the 1st person narration. They rehearsed and tried to resemble the speech, appearance and expression of their role model. 

In the fourth phase, we devoted class time to discussthe challenges their chosen personality had faced and how, despite all, managed to succeed. We discussed the traits which help people leave their stamp in this world. For example, the student who impersonated JK Rowling referred to her teenage years, her mother’s disease, the absence of a male role model, the repeated rejections from publishing companies and also her strong will to succeed in her goal.  Students’ language benefited from reading biographies, discussing and researching. Their social awareness improved and so did their speaking and presentation skills.

To measure students’ reactions, we used Mentimeter. We sawwhich personalities inspired them the most and highlighted the lessons they learnt from these people.

In the fifth phase, we devoted three hours for students to rehearse the script they had drafted, shaped and learnt by heart. Students in their make-belief roles imitated the speaking style and body language of the person they roleplayed. Much attention went to clothing details, props, realia, body language, tone, shade of voice and style of speaking.  Students made a point of faithfully extending the values and standards which these personalities represented. 

Threecmonths later, the sixth stage was in action. It was presentation day. We celebrated presentation skills, the values and knowledge we acquired from this project. Students got on stage, all dressed up and spoke as if they were the person they were impersonating.

The seventh stage was the one when some students were videotaped in different school settings and their videos were uploaded on the school’s YouTube channel. They were afterwards included in the “Digital Wax Museum”. Those who happened to bear a physical resemblance with the portrayed character were most convincing on camera. Some of the “personalities” impersonated were Daniel Radcliffe, Jamie Oliver and Alan Touring from  the field of Science, Michael Phelps and Alexander Nikolaidis  from the field of Sport, John Lennon and Sonita Alizadeh from the field of Music, JK Rowling from the Field of Literature, Malala Yousafzai  from the fieldof Activism,  Banksy and Edvard Munch  from the field of Art

The positive impact of our project on our students was many faceted. English was the tool of communication. Along with it, students exercised their research skills, brainstormed, expressed opinions, learnt that giving up is not a solution to any problem and enriched our school life.

We leant that creativity and fun can go together and liven our lesson reality. This project earned not only a gold award in the area of creativity but also secured exceptional grading by the ELT awards committee. This made us proud and strengthened our motivation to dare alternative practices and go into uncharted project waters at times.

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