Third-grader Hannah Packer doesn’t usually need a wheelchair.
But on Thursday afternoon, she was dressed in a suit and tie sitting in a wheelchair in the hallway of Port Matilda Elementary School acting as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
She was one of 20 third-grade students who participated in the ninth annual Presidents’ Wax Museum in honor of Presidents Day, and was inspired to represent Roosevelt after hearing stories from her grandmother, who grew up in that era.
As part of a research project for Carrie Sharkey’s class, each student spent the month learning about 10 presidents of their choice. They were then asked to focus on one president to become youth experts on, Sharkey said.
“They had a blast because we made it a lot of fun and allowed them to be interactive,” Sharkey said, adding that the class started a few weeks ago by reading “So You Want to be President.”
Dressed as the president of their choice, the students lined the hallways and stood against the walls frozen next to informational posters they’d made about their respective presidents.
Brooklyne Clinemyer was Theodore Roosevelt; Owen Johnson was Richard Nixon; Weston McClain impersonated Zachary Taylor; and Caden Nyman played the role of Barack Obama.
With their hands and arms out, they waited for a guest to tap the red dot in the middle of their hand that acted as a button to bring them to life.
When activated, the student spoke about the president he or she represented, and at the end, refroze until they were triggered to recite the facts again.
Matthew Weyandt stood next to Sharkey’s classroom representing William Howard Taft. He was the first student president who welcomed the visitors as they walked the halls learning facts about the leaders.
About 80 people attended, including other students, parents, residents, school board members and district administration.
For the first time, the art department also was involved in the event as teacher Janet Riggio allowed fifth-grade students to showcase facts about famous pieces of presidential artwork, Sharkey said.
Matthew — short and small in size — was dressed in a button-down collared shirt with a tie and had a pillow under his shirt to appear larger. He also wore a fake mustache.
The 8-year-old did his best to look like Taft, and did an even better job rattling off facts about the 27th president as visitors approached him.
“He had many nicknames that were Tubby, Big Bill and Big Lub,” Matthew said without a pause. “He even got stuck in a tub. He was also the first president to drive a car.”
Ava Stere, 9, said she wanted to be Grover Cleveland because his face was on the $1,000 bill.
“That’s one of the cool things,” she said. “But he was also the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, unlike anyone else.”
Cleveland was in office from March 4, 1885, to March 4, 1889, and again from March 4, 1893 to March 4, 1897.
Colton Haagen, 8, represented George W. Bush after creating a facts poster with his mother about the 43rd president, and spending hours reciting his speech.
“He was just really interesting to me,” Colton said. “He was president from 2001 to 2009, when there was the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and he was the governor of Texas.”
Sharkey said that at the primary level at Bald Eagle Area School District, history class focuses on the community and state. By the time students enter middle and high school, students learn U.S. history.
“This is a really good transition lesson for students,” Sharkey said. “When they’re older they can recall that one time in elementary school when they played the presidents.”