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Students’ fairy tale figures live wax-ily ever after


The Big Bad Wolf claims he’s not as bad as people think. He blames a head cold for eating that pig. “I just wanted strawberries,” said this particular wolf, aka Gianluca Piccione, in his rendition of the “The Three Little Pigs.”

Gabe Stanton — billy goat on the outside, artist on the inside — waits for the museum to open

“I sneezed, and his house went down … so I ate him up,” he said. Then the wolf grabbed the strawberries and lived happily ever after.

Those details may not be in the fairy tale you remember as a child. Gianluca used a bit of creative license when he shared the tale he had written for Knapp Forest Elementary’s Fairy Tale Wax Museum. He was one of more than 100 “frozen” wax characters who occupied displays in the school’s classrooms and hallways to recite stories they had written.

In the wax museum, kids get to “step inside” a fairy tale character of their choice and become that character, said second-grade teacher Kim Ennis Crampton.

Goldilocks Lana Phebus and her video-recording mom

“This is a fun and creative way for them to practice what they have studied and learned,” she said.

At the stroke of 11:10 a.m. on the day of the museum, parents and friends crowded past fancy, homemade cardboard castle gates into the classrooms and hall turned into a magical kingdom full of “frozen” fairy-tale characters. Visitors pushed a hand-drawn button beside the characters to make them come to life and share their stories, just as it does in real wax museums.

First-graders came to see a dress rehearsal earlier in the morning so they’d get an idea of what they would be doing next year. Buddy classes in fourth and fifth grades and kindergarten class also got to visit the museum.

Pushing a button to unfreeze the characters

Learning through Acting

The three weeks running up to the wax museum engaged students in reading, writing and public speaking, all part of the language arts curriculum in the second-grade classrooms of Crampton, Beth Ewing,  Tiffani Elzinga and Haley Price.

Students also were introduced to fairy tale characteristics such as magic, good vs. not-so-good, and the rule of three found in stories such as The Three Little Pigs, The Three Bears and the three chances Rumplestiltskin gave the miller’s daughter.

Nino Novelli was the troll from “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

The happiest ending for Nora Theil: when she got out of her sweaty costume

“Ello!” he said in his big troll accent as he welcomed onlookers. Nino’s version of the troll talked about trying to convince a goat to come off the bridge so he could eat him.

“All these goats keep crossing my bridge! And I was kicked into an ocean! Wow! Guess he didn’t want me to eat. How dare you! Not nice.”

The short-but-sweet 20-minute exhibit was fun for families and friends because they get to see what students are working on in the classroom, Cranston said. And they got the side benefit of helping their kids create costumes, build props such as Captain Hook’s aluminum-foil appendage, and figure out how to get Gretel’s curls to stay down with lots of pins and hairspray.

This is the 15th year the school has presented the wax museum, a type of learning project that’s become popular at elementary schools. Crampton said some of her students have told her it’s one of the best things that happens in second grade.

And, of course, it always ends happily ever after.

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.

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