Bicycle wheels, a handmade dress and blue-stitched eyes became the stuff of presidents and first ladies this fall as students from Welsh Hills School brought this country’s leaders to life…as scarecrows.
For the second year, the lawn of the museum was sprinkled with their creations in celebration of Halloween. Sixteen puffy headed, stiff armed, fully dressed and straw stuffed scarecrows represent either a president or a first lady in this presidential year. The invasion began on Oct. 14 and ran until the 31st. It was part of a museum-wide celebration of the fall holiday with collector George Johnson’s Halloween through the ages displayed inside.
The students of Licking County’s only independent school, located in Granville, delighted in telling the stories of their presidential pick and all they learned and created in this hands-on learning adventure. Three of them are here:
Avery Swartz, age 10, of Granville
Avery’s inspiration for his choice of Franklin D. Roosevelt might have begun with stories about handicapped children overcoming life’s obstacles. The film, “Annie,” and the story of Helen Keller, are two that Avery cites as important to him. “Roosevelt managed to do all that he did when he was paralyzed,” he said. And that impressed Avery.
To portray the reality of Roosevelt’s life, Avery needed a wheelchair. “I wanted to make him look smart and attractive in the chair,” he said. So he used bicycle wheels and a regular chair to fashion the wheelchair for his Roosevelt scarecrow. “It took me about nine days to make him,” Avery said. “He’s now my favorite president.”
Nora Catherine Carrington, age 10, Newark
Nora went farther back in time to honor the very first, first lady, Martha Washington. Her Martha scarecrow was one of four first ladies represented this year with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president, as the fifth woman to stand on the lawn.
Nora is fascinated with the life of Martha. She learned that Martha was married twice and had four children, none of whom survived childhood. Martha was a learned woman from a well-to-do family. “Learning about Martha was very fun,” Nora said. “When I first started I thought it would be too challenging, but then I found ten facts that were very helpful and said to myself, ‘I can do this.’” And she smiled.
Special for Nora is a dress that her grandmother had made for her mother when they lived near Williamsburg in Virginia and that now dons scarecrow Martha. “She made it for my mother to represent the women in colonial Williamsburg. It has a shawl and an apron.”
In all, Nora was very pleased with her Martha. “I needed to repair an eye and the smile is a little thin, but I like it,” she said.
J.J. Herro, age 11, Granville
J.J. chose the other Roosevelt for his scarecrow. Teddy Roosevelt’s love for the outdoors and his Rough Riders persona captured JJ’s imagination. “He’s my favorite president,” JJ said. “And he was the youngest president at age 42.”
J.J. laughed when he began to talk about creating Teddy’s face where mouth, nose and eyes are stitched. “I’m not very good at sewing,” he said, “and then I realized that I sewed his eyes blue in the place where they should have been white!” But J.J. took the broader view and with a deadline to meet, he decided that was OK after all. His president when stuffed with straw and dressed is quite personable, J.J. agrees, and he is proud of his work.
All three students enjoyed the research component of this learning project as well as the construction part and were eager to share what they learned. The project was part of their language arts class under the direction of teacher Shelli Drumm, “The students looked over the list of presidents and first ladies, eliminating any selected last year. After they made their choice, they talked with the librarian about getting facts,” she said. “Each student then wrote and typed a biography.”
Drumm said she believes one of the most important parts of this project was their preparation to make a public presentation. When the scarecrows were installed, each student spoke about the life of these impressive men and women who have impressed them, in scarecrow form.