The history books may ignore Ross Bulkley, but to his grandson, Brandon Brown, he was a hero worth remembering.
Brandon, a fifth-grader at Welby Elementary School, chose his grandfather to honor during the school's History Fair. The theme, "The Individual in History"gave children a lot of latitude for selecting someone to highlight. His late grandfather, Brandon said, "Didn't lie very much. He told the truth and he didn't hurt anyone and he was very forgiving. And he loved me a lot." Bulkley spent his adult life as a fisheries biologist, and the grandson enriched his display with a jar of stuffed olives that were king-sized versions of fish eggs.
Other fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade students who filled the school's auditorium with their displays went further back in history to pick an example of someone who made a difference.
Jesse Heaton (and others in the group) chose an anti-hero, in fact - one of history's villains, but one who taught all of humanity important lessons.
"Adolph Hitler killed 6 million Jews. He put them in chambers and turned on gas," said Jesse. "Then he burned the bodies in large ovens." The student had gleaned his information from three books and other sources and created a 10-page report along with the picture display he brought to the fair.
Janna Rasmussen grimaced as she told the tale of Sacajawea, the Indian woman who was important to the Lewis and Clark Expedition from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. The Sacajawea tale that brought the revulsion to Janna's mind was the one in which the Indian woman ate crushed rattlesnake rattles to speed the birth of her son, Pompei.
A pint-sized Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) with a brown-paper cigar, along with mustache and eyebrows crafted of mop strands, told an enthusiastic tale of Twain's river boat days.
"My favorite story about Mark Twain," said McKay Barrow, "was when he and his friends used to roll big boulders down the mountain in front of carriages. One day, they found a really big boulder and they decided to roll it down, but not when any buggies were coming. When they let it go, a carriage was coming along. The boulder flew over the top of the carriage and, the story said, landed in a barrel factory.
"I like the way he writes. I like the way he jokes around," McKay said of his historical hero.
McKay's sister, Jennifer, and a classmate, Rochelle Andersen, chose Anne Frank to spotlight.
"If they made me hide in a house to be safe, like they did Anne, I would be angry," Jennifer said of the young Jewish girl, whose diary has been read around the world.> Other historic figures who were selected by students included Michelangelo, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin (who invented electricity, according to Megan Oviatt), John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln and even Ronald Reagan.
Sharlee Doxey, a teacher who works with gifted and talented children, directed the project, but said a cooperative effort among teachers has made such events at Welby more productive.
Teachers at the school chose at the beginning of the school year to make their classes slightly larger so Doxey and Carolyn Feinstein could be free to work on enrichment programs. The approach has proved a very effective use of the comparatively small amount of money available for gifted/talented programs, Doxey said.
For the history fair, the two teachers pulled students from various classes and worked with them closely to make the fair a more intense and productive learning experience. They involved children in the higher level thinking skills necessary to produce a quality fair, encouraged them to use a variety of sources for their material and use imagination in putting together displays.