BOUNTIFUL -- A third-grade class at Holbrook Elementary School learned there are more ways to study American history than from a book.
The class of 28 students took their history curriculum to a new level by not only researching famous figures in American history, but then developing those iconic people into marionette. The students spent several months molding the characters' bodies out of clay, sewing clothes, painting their faces on and attaching heavy fishing line to move their puppets' heads and hands.
On Thursday the students put the marionettes on display for their schoolmates and parents.
"It helps the kids learn about people in our history by using a lot of our curriculum, such as language arts from writing the plays themselves and art by decorating the scenery. The kids especially loved making their marionettes," said Jana Ashliman, the third-grade teacher.
Ashliman has been helping her students create marionettes for the past 15 years. Several of her students who are now in college have come back to visit, saying they still have their puppets.
One parent, who was watching her daughter perform this week, said her oldest daughter, now 16, still remembers how much fun she had making her marionette when she was in third grade with Ashliman.
"It's a good experience for all of them, because they learn about what their character wore, and how they were good examples for all of us," said Teresa Williams, of Bountiful.
The kids sang songs, including one about how the future of America is in everyone's hands. Several of the puppets represented people who were examples of that sentiment, such as Elizabeth Blackwell, the first woman to receive a medical degree in the United States.
Third-grade student Sunny Price-Huish's marionette portrayed Blackwell, and in the process of researching, Sunny learned several interesting things.
"It was hard for her to go to medical school because no one wanted to take her seriously," Sunny said. "It's also been amazing learning about the lives of everyone else's character, too, and what they had to go through."
Learning about the characters for several months allowed the kids to become engrossed in history.
"As they learn about their famous person, it's more prevalent in their mind, so they start reading books about them, and they get more involved with their person," Ashliman said. "I have a lot of kids say, 'Hey, my dad has a book on that person,' or 'There is a movie about that person.'"
Parent Lisa Barlow noticed the same thing when her son was learning about his character, Jackie Robinson.
"He has really taken ownership over his puppet, learning about him and what he meant for our country and the tough things he had to go through in order to prepare the way for others in baseball," Barlow said.
Third-grader Garrison Melanson, whose marionette was Abraham Lincoln, said he was surprised to learn some things he didn't know about Lincoln.
"When he was a kid, he did a lot for his family, like taking care of the garden or animals without being asked," Garrison said.
The plays covered various topics throughout American history, including the early stages of the country with George Washington and John Adams, the adventures of Lewis and Clark, exploring the history of baseball, getting to know Walt Disney, covering the first moon walk, and the history of flight.