Shauna Smithey sat perfectly still as she waited for onlookers to clap three times, jump four times and say, "Wake up."
That ritual was the signal for the West Clinton Elementary School sixth-grader to perform a 30-second monologue about Helen of Troy during a wax museum activity Tuesday.
"It's hard to memorize the speech, but we get to dress up," said Shauna, who wore plastic leaves in her hair and pink folds of material draped around her as a dress.
Teacher Rebecca Wilkins has conducted the sixth-grade class activity for about seven years as a way to involve students in history -- particularly ancient civilizations, which is a focus in sixth grade.
"Not all kids are good at pencil-and-paper activities," Wilkins said.
By letting them research a person, create a monologue and track down a costume, each student has the potential to shine and build self-esteem, she said.
Besides, Wilkins said, the activity is different from traditional school. Students will always remember the wax museum activity, she said, but they might not remember graphing a point on a map.
"This is more of what life is really like," Wilkins explained. "They have to come through. They can't just show up and do nothing."
If students hadn't done the research and work, it would have been obvious to their schoolmates, who wandered among the various characters. The entire school was invited to see the wax museum come to life on the playground Tuesday.
Though many schools host grade-level activities, such as Colonial days for fifth-graders and frontier days for fourth-graders, not all teachers do such large-scale activities for a single classroom.
Natalie Randall, a parent, said she was happy to see her daughter, Summer, participate. Summer portrayed Marie Antoinette, wearing a long blue dress they found in a costume shop.
"It's more interesting for them to act out the characters and get a feel for who they were," Randall said.
Monica Mitchell, who played Medusa, agreed. She enjoyed everything from picking her costume, which consisted of a black dress and lots of toy snakes, to learning her speech.
"I wanted to be unique," Monica said. "I was going to be Aphrodite, but that's what people would have expected."
Others joining Monica in the wax museum included McKenzie Adams as Nefertiti and J.T. Herrmann as a Roman soldier.
Unless someone pressed a mock button on the red cardboard shield that was almost equal to his height, J.T. hid behind it, with only his eyes and the top of his helmet visible.
When the button was pressed, J.T. came to life, telling people about the intense four-month training it took to be a solider.
Like many other students who participated, J.T. said he was happy to be part of the experience.
"It's a good project," he said between performances. "I like dressing up and making stuff."