VICENZA, Italy - Since the beginning of March, Vicenza Elementary School fifth-graders have been researching dozens of significant figures from past and present to create a sort of wax museum open to other classes as part of an annual project.

Once preparation was complete, approximately 110 students were dressed up and ready to present their "living biographies" during the event held at VES on Villaggio March 23.

Renowned figures such as writers, movie directors and sport players came alive.

One of them was astronaut Neil Armstrong, impersonated by Brayden Doran, who said, "He has a special place in my heart. Since he [Armstrong] loves space, it makes me happy to talk about him and be him."

In addition to dressing up and presenting speeches about their figures, the presenters collected props and created posters and timelines.

"I saw it last year, and it looked like really fun," said Georgia Hess, dressed up as Harry Potter. "I was looking forward to it. It is really hard, though, because there are many components that people don't see when they walk through the booths. We had to prepare a poster, write a biography, and get ready to answer questions."

Hess said she picked J. K. Rowling, the British novelist best known for writing the "Harry Potter" fantasy series, because her stories are inspiring.

"It made me happy to talk about her because I liked to do someone who made a difference that people don't know about," she continued.

Hess read the entire Harry Potter series and watched all of the movies.
"My favorite is 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,'" she said while holding the book.

Jeshua Contreras Mora echoed Hess's comment, "I learned about someone making changes in history.

Bob Marley helped to fight segregation through music. He was inspiring to so many people and has inspired me so much."

The fifth-grade teachers who planned the "Living Biographies" this year were Beth Favor, Katrina Geylani, Candy Mancino, Jeff Sparling and Gretchen Zaldana.

Sparling's daughter, Avonlea Sparling, now a fifth-grader, was excited to present a living biography this year, but had previously researched a historical figure while attending second grade.

At that time, she selected Malala Yousafzai after talking with her mother about who she thought was an inspirational female.

"Avonlea was very involved in her research even at that young of an age," said Sparling.

For this year's project, Avonlea wanted to choose another strong female to research. She decided on Marie Curie, who won two Nobel Prizes.

When her father asked Avonlea why she chose Marie Curie, she told him she wasn't sure who to choose at first, but decided to research famous scientists.

"She said, 'I love science and Marie Curie was an amazing scientist, and I wanted to know more about her,'" explained Sparling.

When he asked parents how much assistance they had to give with the process at home, the teacher said many responded that they only had to help with small details - that the majority of the research was done independently by their child.

"As a teacher, that is a sign of a good project," said Sparling, "I used requirements of the project as an opportunity to teach students how to take a large task and break it into manageable pieces. I know students will be expected to conduct more research as they progress through school, and I wanted them to see how easy it is when you manage your time and information well."

Sparling said this project was a great success.

"Our fifth-grade students did an outstanding job. Walking through our cafeteria was like walking through history. Many students wore such accurate costumes that you did not need to read their poster to know who they were representing. I saw many happy visitors visiting our students and learning from them."