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Historical figures come alive in classroom turned museum

Lowell — Albert Einstein’s notes were propped up on a desk in a Murray Lake Elementary fourth-grade classroom.

The aged handwriting revealed the work of a genius, detailing his complex physics work. It was a good thing that the scientist himself was there to explain his concepts, such as the mass-energy equivalence concept.

“Energy equals mass at a constant speed of light times itself, which means energy plus mass are equal,” said the frizzy-white-haired Nobel Prize winner.

In reality, Kingston Shindorf was doing that explaining, dressed in lab coat, round black glasses and sporting Einstein’s famous hair. 

Kingston was surrounded by many other famous people talking about their work in third-grade teacher April Simmons’ classroom turned wax museum: Rosa Parks described her role in the civil rights movement; Amelia Earhart spoke of her flight across the Atlantic Ocean; Coco Chanel described becoming a fashion icon; Dr. Seuss explained his passion for green eggs and ham; and Ruth Bader Ginsburg talked about her work as a Supreme Court justice.

To get them talking, visitors pushed a “button” on their desks, making the historical figures come to life. Each student presented a speech on their chosen person and shared a homemade artifact from their lives. 

The annual museum is part of a non-fiction reading and writing unit, Simmons said.

Students read several short biographies about different people before choosing who they want to research more in depth. They create presentations including a biography on early life, adulthood, why they became famous, death (if the person is no longer alive) and lasting impact. 

They also make an artifact and label for their display after learning about them at the Lowell Area Historical Museum

The project culminates when they present their work in costume.

“It helps their learning come to life and for them to know that there’s a purpose to their learning because we get to share information with staff, students and parents,” Simmons said.

Read more from Lowell: 
Fifth-grade leaders offer schoolwide improvement ideas
Outdoor classroom serves as 150 acre sanctuary for learning

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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