NEWPORT BEACH — Rows of third-grade students dressed in costumes stood statue-like, holding out their clenched right fists.
As parents walked up and down the rows and pressed a red "button" on the students' fists, 8-year-old versions of Leonardo da Vinci, Queen Elizabeth I, Colin Powell, Pocahontas, Ben Franklin, J.K. Rowling and Kobe Bryant came to life.
"This is an impressionist picture I painted," said student Kristin Bennington, who stayed in character as artist Mary Cassatt when asked about a portrait she held.
Harbor View Elementary School's three third-grade classes participated Thursday in its annual Wax Museum event. The gathering culminated in the students' biography project, in which they dressed up as a famous man or woman they'd been reading about and gave a short speech about that person's life.
The event represented Harbor View's innovative integration of language arts skills and history, said Principal Charlene Metoyer.
The third grade has long done the biography project, but another teacher introduced the Wax Museum event three years ago, said teacher Patti Clark.
The students started their biography projects about a month ago. They picked a book to read and wrote a research paper about their famous subjects. Next week, the students will give three-minute to five-minute oral presentations.
The Wax Museum is designed to help prepare the students for their presentations, Clark said.
Kristin, dressed in a white dress with black polka dots and a large white hat with a feather, said she felt more prepared after having to recite information about Cassatt.
Kristin asked her mom who she should be for the project, and they came up with Cassatt.
"I chose Mary because I want to be an artist when I grow up and her paintings are really beautiful," she said.
The event has been fun, especially seeing all her classmates dressed up, she said.
The project has also inspired Kristin to learn to paint like Cassatt.
"I want to paint the same way she does," she said. "I like the colors."