Bringing Historical Figures to Life in Grade 2

by | Jan 29, 2024 | Lower School, Learning

Liora D. takes notes from a George Washington biography.

Grade 2 has an iconic curricular unit called the “Wax Museum” that is designed to give students first-hand insights into key leaders in history. The Wax Museum ties into their biographical reading and writing unit, with each student assigned a figure to study and write about. But that’s just the beginning!


For the past ten years, the Wax Museum has introduced second graders to a wide range of changemakers—people who have stood up in their era to make a difference for the better—and the figure pool is only growing. 


“We started with Martin Luther King, Jr., and also shared facts about ourselves to show the students what makes a biography,” said Grade 2 Lead Teacher Heidi Klopfer. “They are now working section by section—early life, family, education, fun facts—on biographies of their assigned historical figures, and then from their report, they write a wax museum script.”


Students can choose what industry or subject matter they’d like to focus on, from sports and arts to science and politics and beyond. “The children can pick a person of any background or gender, giving them the freedom to portray anyone that interests them,” explained Grade 2 Lead Teacher Aaron Fischlowitz-Roberts. “We study a variety of historical figures from all walks of life which gives kids new perspectives of the world. Our goal is to open our students’ eyes as they grow into global Jewish citizens.”


With Rashi’s interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, the drama department plays an important role in second graders’ weeks of preparation. Aaron noted, “Working with our theater director and technical theater director helps the students bring their presentation and public speaking skills to the next level.”

The Wax Museum is an intensive project, challenging students to push themselves academically and creatively. “Everyone can make it a success at their reading or writing level. Students go above and beyond in their research, and it stretches them in a way that works for them. We always meet the needs of various types of learners,” Heidi explained. 


The culmination of this unit is when students take on the character of their historical figure: on a school day morning, each second grader dons a full costume and recites their “script” at the Wax Museum, with parents and family members as their audience. Second graders’ deep knowledge and the ease and enthusiasm with which they present their findings never fail to wow their audience. 


Said Heidi, “I think it’s a highlight for kids, because they can really take ownership of it. And in the end, it’s a fun way to celebrate their finished work with pride.”