Natalia Higgs, 6, sported a gymnastic leotard and wore two medals around her neck on Friday morning at Irving Elementary, 1125 Cuyler Ave. This wasn’t show-and-tell. Higgs was the gold medal-winning gymnast Simone Biles for the day. 

Higgs and her classmates from teacher Mohogany Williams’ kindergarten class created their own Madame Tussauds-like Living Wax Museum to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to U.S. history during Black History Month. 

Williams said that she’s been doing the Living Wax Museum for about four years now, but this year was the first time she tried it with kindergarteners. 

“I thought, ‘What’s the best way for them to do research and learn about awesome contributors to this nation’s history that don’t often get highlighted or celebrated in the way they should,'” Williams said. “So, I thought this would be awesome for them to learn about someone they won’t have the opportunity to learn about otherwise.” 

Williams said she taught students about the important black historical figures and gave them the opportunity to pick three people they’d like to portray in the living museum. 

“The students either got their first, second or third choices, so that there would be no duplicates and each student is presenting on someone new,” Williams said. 

Each student sat or stood in front of a presentation board plastered with photos of their historical figure. 

Barrett Buehrle, dressed in a dark suit and a light tie, was late South African president and civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. 

Ravyn Monroe, dressed in clothes intended to look like period pieces from the 19th century, was Molly Williams — the first known female firefighter in the country. 

At times, the historical divide separating the kindergarteners and the people they were portraying melted away. 

“My name is Ruby Bridges and I’m a civil rights activist,” said Anyla Watson. “I desegregated a school and [now] brown people and white people are friends together.” 

Glued to the lower left portion of Watson’s presentation board was an article with the headline: “What if Ruby Bridges Just Stayed Home?” 

When she attended the all-white William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1959, Bridges had to be escorted by U.S. Marshals and protected from mobs. 

Ruby Bridges, like Anyla Watson, was in kindergarten. 

CONTACT: michael@oakpark.com  

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