In the multipurpose room at Hatch Elementary School, coins jingled in pockets or jars as parents and children wandered through the aisle of fifth graders. Clutching colorful flashcards, some students were in costume dressed as stars, actor Robert Downey Jr. and rulers of countries and empires.
When the students heard the clank of a coin hitting the bottom of a tin can, they stood up and asked their benefactor whether they should give their speech in English or Spanish. Then they commenced their life story.
“People call me brave Bessie,” said Talia Meyer who wore flight goggles and an aviator helmet.
She was dressed as pilot and civil rights activist Bessie Coleman, the first woman of African-American descent and of Native American descent to hold a pilot license.
It’s the second year Hatch has held its “Fifth Grade Wax Museum” where students research and present about a notable person of their choosing. But instead of just talking about an individual, they tell their story in the first-person.
“Their research comes to life because they’re speaking as that person,” fifth-grade teacher Angie Work said.
Dillon Macdonald was dressed in a black turtleneck and round glasses seated closest to one of the doors people came through. He recounted the story of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple and the financial savior of Pixar.
“I knew Apple would change the world and it was actually happening,” he read from his notecard.
Each student translated their speeches into Spanish as part of the school’s immersion program.
“They have a purpose to do something,” fifth-grade teacher Esther Mas said. “It’s not just writing.”
Alondra Gomez sported a sparkling tiara and shared her story of ascent to power as Queen Elizabeth II.
“I became the first British monarch to have a sapphire jubilee,” she said.
The money is donated to Coastside Hope’s food pantry and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley’s brown bag program, which provides food for seniors. Last year, they raised about $600.
“It involves all the community, all the parents and the teachers,” Principal David Porcel said.
At the end of Bessie Coleman’s dialogue, given by the fifth-grader Meyer, she explained how she perished after a mechanical mishap during a flight. Then she summed up her life’s work giving speeches and standing against segregation.
“I did not live long enough to achieve my dream of (opening) a flight school, but I’m still proud of the speeches I made,” Meyer said.
With that, she sat back down, pulled her flight goggles over her eyes, crossed her arms and waited to hear the next clank from a coin hitting the bottom of the can.