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North Hall Middle takes a trip back in time
Students portray historical characters who inspire their studies
Ashley Johnson plays the part of Jane Austen during the North Hall Middle School Morning with the Memorables on Thursday. - photo by Tom Reed

There was not a time in history where Jacques Cousteau, Marilyn Monroe, Cleopatra and Gen. George Patton were all under one roof.

Until Thursday, that is, when they and about 40 others were all inside the North Hall Middle School media center as part of the annual "Morning with the Memorables" project.

"After doing this I've become interested in law, but I might want to be in the medical field," said Kasey Burchett, 14, who acted as Sandra Day O'Connor. "My favorite part is letting people get to know who she is and what she did. Some of the adults that came by have known who she was, but a lot of kids didn't know who she is."

The project, now in its third year, was part of Kathy Mellette's eighth-grade directed studies class.

"I'm trying to help the children find their learning styles, their interests and their passions," Mellette said. "I'm also trying to foster interest in subject areas and show authentic research and real-life learning. ... These students we hope will go into the higher level classes, especially (International Baccalaureate) because they have the sense to dig deeper."

Students had to choose somebody in history they were interested in or who had contributed to a field they were interested in. They had to research, dress in costume and bring in props to demonstrate their character.

For the costume portion, Mellette's class partnered with the North Hall High School drama department, so that every student had a chance to dress up for their presentation. They gathered in the library Wednesday and Thursday as peers filed past to learn about their lives and industries. Some of the content will show up on standardized tests later, Mellette said.

Jane Austen spoke about her books with an authentic British accent, Princess Diana came in a tiara and Jane Goodall had a monkey around her neck.

Weylin Oliver, 13, portrayed James Oglethorpe, complete with a wig fashioned of cotton balls. He described Oglethorpe's journey from London to Savannah, Ga., and described several of the wars Oglethorpe was involved in.

Across the room, Emily Trice, 13, was dressed in full horsemanship garb as Olympic show jumper Beezie Madden.

"She's such an inspiration to me," Emily said.

"She's come such a long way and she's won two golds at the Olympics. She doesn't want to be known as someone famous, she just wants to be known as someone who rides horses."

Maria Sharapova, University of Tennessee-Knoxville women's basketball Coach Pat Summitt and Dale Earnhardt also made appearances from the sports world.

In true Disney fashion, Tucker Buffington, 13, created a video montage of some of Walt Disney's famous works and family photographs. Steve Irwin, the late Crocodile Hunter, was around as well, showing off various animal skulls and pelts to his audience.

Veronica Watts, 14, chose to research Dolly Parton.

"Ms. Mellette was explaining to me how she does charities and I thought that was so cool, that she sings but she's not stuck up or anything like that," Veronica said.

Lindsey Johnson, 14, translated her love of cooking into her Memorables project. After learning Betty Crocker wasn't a real person, Johnson turned her attention to famed chef Julia Child.

"She made French cooking easier for Americans and brought it into the American cooking world," Lindsey said. "I made one of the cakes out of her cookbook, a chocolate coffee cake. It was really good."

Those who stopped by Lindsey's booth got to try a sample of the sponge cake, which Lindsey said was hard to create: one mis-whip of egg whites and the whole thing would be ruined.

Olivia Pless' research on Cleopatra revealed some interesting facts.

"A lot of people associated beauty with her, and when I started actually looking into it I realized how intelligent she really was," said Olivia, 14.

"She was fluent in nine languages and was the first in her family to learn to read hieroglyphics. She was just a born leader."

Shirley Temple was present as well, along with one of her dolls and animal crackers in her soup.

"In my life, Shirley Temple was very important to me," said Brooke Witzell, 14. "When my grandmother used to watch me, she said I would dazzle her in every single way. That is exactly what Shirley Temple would do to the world."

Brooke was most impressed by Temple not "falling off the face of the Earth" once her acting career ended.

"I want to live my life like she did. She lived out her glory days when she was little, but she persevered through everything," Brooke said.

Ansley Louis, 13, chose to research a historical figure who inspired her career choice: Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in the U.S.

"Her quote was that she wanted to help people, not because she wanted the money but because they needed help. That was a big thing to me because she would put others before herself," Ansley said. "My mom, when I was little, worked in the hospital and I loved going to visit her and seeing what all the surroundings were like. I thought it was so cool how the medicine and doctoring works and how they know how to do everything. I picked (Blackwell) because I do want to be a doctor or a nurse."

Mellette said the project was an opportunity to see her students gain networking, public speaking and time management skills.

"It made me see children do want to learn and they enjoy learning in fun and interesting ways," she said. "It makes me so sad to think there's not more of this going on, really."