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Students from Cascade Heights bring Oregon history to life

by: ELLEN SPITALERI - Autumn Prisel, center, is surrounded by, clockwise from left, Vivian Frackiewicz, Andrea Quirino, Meiling Masterson, Helena Brinker and Makana Stores. Wax museum figures will come alive and some Oregon notables will come out at night at two events at Cascade Heights Public Charter School from 6 to 8 p.m. on Nov. 20.

Students in Denise Cantin’s fourth-grade class will take on the roles of famous Oregon residents and bring a wax museum to life in the hallway of the school.

Cantin said she first read about this activity online and last year put it together as a classroom activity. To her surprise, it turned into a “huge hit,” so she is bringing it back this year as an evening event that students can share with parents and community members.

All 24 of her students learned about people from all walks of life who had some impact on Oregon’s history, but each student did deeper research on one specific character. They then had to come up with a costume and props on a budget of only $10, and they needed to prepare themselves to be that character during the wax museum event.

“I love it that the students get so involved with their characters,” Cantin said, adding that the students learn a variety of skills as part of the activity, including public speaking.

“It’s a really big night for the school and students,” she added.

Night of the Notables

Holly Denman, the director of Cascade Heights Public Charter School, said students in grades six, seven and eight present Night of the Notables.

“It is a program from Australia, where students learn in-depth about one person and write a report. Then guests have only 20 minutes to talk to as many notables as they can, asking them questions, trying to guess their identities,” she said.

Then there is a short break and all the notables assemble in one place and reveal their identities.

Denman added, “It is a good way to build community and refocus on what is important for the future of our children, and where we came from.”

Oregon characters

Helena Brinker, 9, has chosen William Clark as her focus for the wax museum. Clad in a buckskin jacket, she will tell the story of the famous explorer who was sent by Thomas Jefferson to find a path to the Pacific Ocean, she said.

With a stethoscope around her neck, Vivian Frackiewicz, 9, will portray Dr. Bethenia Owens-Adair, one of the first

female doctors in Oregon. Adair graduated from medical school in Pennsylvania and Michigan, and practiced in Oregon in the late 1800s.

Ginger Rogers was born in Missouri, but lived in Oregon near the end of her life. And because Meiling Masterson, 9, likes dancing, she was pleased to focus on a character who was best known for her dancing ability. Meiling watched a movie of Rogers dancing with Fred Astaire and chose a red satiny dress to wear to portray the star of stage and screen.

Autumn Prisel, 9, went the literary route when she chose writer Beverly Cleary as her character of interest.

“When she was in elementary school, she had trouble with reading, but then won over 40 awards for her books,” Autumn said, adding that she has read all the Ramona and Beezus books, along with the Mouse and Motorcycle books, and wants to be an author when she grows up.

Narcissa Whitman was an inspiration for Andrea Quirino, 9, who learned a lot about women settlers as she researched Whitman’s life. She was the first European-American woman to cross the Rocky Mountains in 1836, and was in Oregon, on her way to found a mission in Washington state with her husband, Marcus.

“I really like learning about this person I did not know existed, until I looked her up,” Andrea said.

Makana Stores, 9, chose to research Sarah Winnemucca, an American Indian from the Paiute tribe in Oregon; she lived from 1844 to 1891.

“She was the first Native American to copyright and publish a book in the English language, called ‘Life Among the Paiutes,’” Makana said, adding that she admired Winnemucca, because she lived in the wilderness, and her own favorite place is in the wilderness.




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