BOUNTIFUL -- History came to life Tuesday afternoon as fifth-grade students at Bountiful Elementary School put on a marionette show starring historic explorers.
Marionettes portraying explorers from the world's past were contestants on "X-plorer Idol," modeled after the television show "American Idol."
Marionette judges King Simon, Queen Paula and Prince Randy, with help from Seacrest the court jester, evaluated the accomplishments of historic figures such as Ferdinand Magellan and Christopher Columbus.
Each student chose an explorer from world history to study, then created a marionette in the image of that person. The students wrote a paragraph highlighting the accomplishments of their explorer, which became the foundation of the play's script.
While imitating a Spanish accent, fifth-grader Parker Campbell summarized the life of Vasco Nunez de Balboa. He controlled the strings of his Balboa marionette while explaining that he was a Spanish explorer who stowed away on a boat by hiding in a barrel. He also added that Balboa was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean, and that his life ended when he was betrayed by friends and beheaded.
Elizabeth Wiser, a fifth-grade teacher, praised the benefits of combining the arts with different types of learning.
"(The students) have learned the explorers better this year than any year I have taught this, because they have come to life for them. They remember who they are," Wiser said. "They are so much more excited about this. It's not just names and obscure facts."
Camille Shelley, whose son Andrew was participating in the show, said that making a marionette has made learning about explorers much more fun for her son.
"It just makes it more real," Shelley said. "He's been talking about this for weeks."
The students made the marionettes by tearing fabric into strips and then tying them together to form joints. They used Model Magic to create the heads and hands, and attached fishing line to enable the students to control them. Each student sewed the clothing for their marionette by hand.