BRINGING HISTORY TO LIFE: AES students take on roles of history’s most famous, influential people

Published 9:15 am Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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Andalusia Elementary School sixth graders are inviting the community to join them on a trip back in time to learn about some of history’s most notable figures on Friday, May 5.

The AES Living History program allows each sixth grader to immerse themselves into learning about a specific historic figure, writing a paper on the figure, and, ultimately, portraying them for the community.

After missing a few years during the pandemic, AES brought back the living history program last year. Due to weather, the event was held in the AES gym, but plans are to return to downtown Andalusia for the traditional Living History parade where the students will walk from city hall to the downtown square. After the parade, the students will convene on the square to share their characters’ stories with visitors. The parade begins at 9 a.m. with the Living History on the square to begin immediately after.

The Living History program began about 17 years ago by teacher Linda Kyle. All sixth grade students and teachers participate in the program.

“It has evolved over the years into a writing project,” said AES English and Language Arts teacher Vanessa Snider. “They are assigned a book to read and take a test. Then they have to write a report in MLA format. They do the research themselves, focusing on telling their character’s story in chronological order. It is a good project for the students to learn the foundation of writing.”

Among the historic figures to be featured is Princess Diana (Frances Spencer) who will be portrayed by 12-year-old Daisy Diamond. While she was familiar with Princess Dianna, Diamond said she learned a lot of new facts through her research.

“All I really knew was that she was a princess who was married to Prince Charles before they got divorced. I didn’t know about all the things she had done within the medical world, helping bring awareness of AIDS and landmine victims,” Diamond said. “I think she changed the way people saw the royal family, who were always quiet and reserved. She put herself out there and helped people. That is why she became known as ‘The People’s Princess’.”

Diamond is the daughter of Matt and Stacy Diamond.

From the world of science, Isaac Newton will be played by 12-year-old Rowan Stough who said his character laid the foundation for modern science.

“I knew a pretty good bit about him because I am interested in mathematics and physics. I learned that he had a lot of inventions and other theories involving space and light, not just gravity. He played a really important role in the theories of others. Einstein’s theories wouldn’t have been possible without Isaac Newton,” Stough said.

Stough is the son of Alex and Nikki Bailey.

For her character, Myaira Bryant, 12, went back to ancient Egypt to learn about Cleopatra.

“All I knew was that she was queen of Egypt. I learned some interesting things, like she fought against her own brother to win back the throne and that she actually participated and fought in the war,” Bryant said. “She did a lot as queen and was married to both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.”

Bryant is the daughter of Misty McGinnis and Odysseus Bryant.

Representing the field of law enforcement, Jydarrious Moore, 13, will be taking on the role of Bass Reeves, the first black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River.

Moore said he had not heard of Reeves prior to the Living History assignment, but has learned a lot about the famed lawman.

“I learned that he avoided using his gun and was more lenient on the people he would catch. He went through a lot. He was born in Arkansas and grew up in Texas as a slave. At one point, he lived among the Native Americans and learned their languages. He became a highly trusted person,” Moore said.

He is the son of Lewis and Cora Moore.

Snider said the students began working on their written reports and other projects in February. She said the Living History program on Friday is the culmination of a lot of time and effort put in by each student.

“At the end, all the hard work pays off and they can pat themselves on the back. This is their work; a product of what they put into it. They don’t like the writing process that much, but it will benefit them throughout their high school and college careers. It is a stepping stone to get them where they need to be as the continue their education. They do love dressing up and getting into their character to share with the community,” Snider said.

The public is invited to learn more about America’s history by attending the Living History event on Friday, May 5, with the parade beginning at approximately 9 a.m. and presentations on the downtown square from 9:15 to 10 a.m.