BOUNTIFUL — Jana Ashliman’s third-grade students at Holbrook Elementary School have spent four months researching historical figures, writing about them and re-creating their likenesses as marionettes.
On Friday, they presented their hard work in the form of a marionette show, complete with a biography for each character. Ashliman also wove in several coordinating musical numbers.
Earlier in the year, each student chose a historical figure from a list of approved research subjects and learned everything they could about that person.
As they did their research, each student created a marionette in the likeness of their research subject.
Each made their marionette out of clay and other materials at school in January.
When completed, the dolls were sent home with the students with instructions to dress them to match the character they represented.
Kelly Maynes, 8, chose to study Florence Nightingale, a pioneer in the nursing field, because she has always liked nurses.
“Her parents didn’t want her to be a nurse, because only men were doing that. So, she ran away and just started doing it,” Kelly said. “She was in the Army and helped all the men. If they got hurt or shot, she took care of them.”
Kelly said her mother helped her make the dress for her marionette.
Kelly’s best friend and project partner, Saria Barker, chose to study Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.
“Elizabeth Blackwell was rich, and her father owned two sugar refineries. One refinery burned down, and later her father died, so she and her three sisters had to work to earn a living,” said Saria, 9.
She said her grandmother owns a doll shop, so she used one of her dresses for the marionette’s costume.
The class also worked hard to create the backdrops for the puppet show.
“They drew it in with pencil and then colored it in themselves,” Ashliman said. “I didn’t even do one thing.”
Jack Druyon, 9, was assigned to change the backdrop as the characters changed.
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin marionettes had a background of the moon and stars, while Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth had a baseball field backdrop.
“(The students) learn so much about famous people in the world,” Ashliman said. “They learn how to write plays, how to speak as a character and learn about art on scenery.”
Ashliman has been doing this project with her students for 15 years.
She reminisced about a former student who came back to visit several years later to brag that they had stopped flipping through television channels to watch a documentary on the History Channel about Lewis and Clark. They had been introduced to them through this project, and it had sparked a lifelong interest.
Kelly said, “We learned a lot about important people.”