Waxing nostalgic at Hamilton School


Attired as an early American Colonial, Jayden Crespo stood at the ready with his dueling pistol cocked.

Instead of firing, though, the youngster animatedly told a visitor he was proud to pictorially represent Aaron Burr, a Newark native and the third vice president of the U.S.

onsuming the No. 2 post is a good thing, said Jayden, because, as he put it, “I take care of my president – Thomas Jefferson.”

Jayden was among 157 fourth-graders at the Hamilton (named for Alexander Hamilton, the man killed by Burr) Elementary School who studied and portrayed famous New Jersey historical figures.

And, during a recent three-day period, they took turns showcasing their celebrity choices for the benefit of parents and loved ones as part of Live Wax Museum.

Principal Kevin Stahl and Maureen Kroog, district director of curriculum and instruction, said the public unveiling represented the culmination of a fourth-grade social studies project blending in language arts and public speaking.

It also, Kroog added, reflected a collaborative effort among the participants. “I understand they performed for each other as practice for the public event,” she said.

To prep the kids for their upcoming assignment, the school sponsored a field trip to Madame Tussauds Wax Museum in Manhattan in December.

Then, after winter holiday break, the school’s 10 grade 4 teachers drafted a list of Garden State notables, put their names on index cards which they placed in a hat for students to randomly draw.

Whatever name they picked because their adopted historical figure.

Then, for the next two weeks, it was off to the races to come up with facts about their subject, using school media labs and chrome books containing appropriate search engines to gather facts and then, formulate a brief narrative summarizing the individual’s accomplishments.

Each student got a poster board and a large sheet of brown paper to which they fastened clippings and photographs about their historic figures.

And they prepared a short speech that they would commit to memory to recite – in a costume appropriate to their figures – to parents and visitors on the day when their class section was scheduled.

On those days, the school’s gymnatorium took on the look of a wax museum as students froze, in character, in individual niches in front of their “exhibits.”

Taped to the floor, in front of each “display,” was an imprint of the map of New Jersey. When a visitor stood on the map, the student would deliver his/her speech.

When so prompted, fourth-grader Ayanna Gillespie sounded the praises of Chatham native Alice Waters, a pioneer in the organic food movement, particularly in California.

“She tried to change the world by making healthy foods,” Ayanna said.

Asked if she practiced what her role model preached, Ayanna replied: “Sometimes.” When at one with her nutritional mentor, she said, “I eat carrots, the health kind of pasta, broccoli and lettuce.”

Like Gov. Christie, young Joel Rueda is an admitted follower of the Dallas Cowboys professional football team but that doesn’t prevent him from flipping over the antics of Paterson-born Victor Cruz.

“I watch a lot of football,” Joel said. “Cruz is my favorite player. He can catch with one hand and he’s a good runner.” And now, he added, “he’s a free agent.”

As research teammates, Joel recruited his two older brothers, Hector, a Giants rooter, and Daniel, who supports the Panthers. Apparently, it’s a friendly rivalry.

Suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark, raised in Washington Township in Bergen County, has captured the heart and mind of Juliana Soeira as she carefully turned the pages of Clark’s “The Second Time Around.”

“I really like reading,” said Juliana. “[Clark’s] books are very unique. It’s her style. They want to make you keep reading.”

Each of the three-day visitations drew dozens of parents, including Vanessa Downes, whose son Jordan drew former Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (born in Pequannock Township) as his model.

“It’s extraordinary what the children and their teachers have done here,” Downes said. “Such a wonderful job.”

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