Living Wax Museum Project Ideas For Teachers

It’s so exciting to host a living history wax museum for students. For the best results, give special care to each preparation phase of the process. 

To help with the task, I’m sharing my wax museum project ideas that can be used with elementary, middle, or high school students.  

What is a Living Wax Museum Project?

A wax museum project is a school-related activity where students present a famous person or significant character.

Standing before visual backdrops and dressed in costume, individual or small groups of students stand in position and perform while guests stroll through the “living museum” listening to the presentations. 

If you’re ready for your students to deepen their knowledge about a particular subject and also put on a great show, this post is for you.

These wax museum project ideas are divided into five phases in order to keep the planning organized and as smooth as possible. 

Wax Museum Project Ideas

Brainstorm a Theme.

  • First, determine the theme of your wax museum. This will determine what people or ideas students represent. 
  • Consider a theme related to a class unit, author study, a special month (e.g Black history), a book study, or a biography unit in social studies (e.g American history).
  • Keep in mind when selecting characters, “Will students be able to find enough information about these people?” For elementary students, it might be helpful to offer biographies of famous people (such as the Who Was? series) and other resources to support them in locating information.
wax museum project ideas
wax museum project ideas
  • Middle and high school students are usually able to conduct independent research from a variety of resources. 
  • Stress to students that chosen individuals must have something unique about them. It’s not enough to only choose someone based on a “like” factor. The person has to have contributed to a particular segment of society in some way. 
  • Note that it is often best to do character selection as a class so that no two students choose the same person. This is not an issue if the teacher assigns.

Establish Guidelines.

Next on the list of wax museum project ideas is laying the groundwork.

Share with students the guidelines that must follow as they prepare for the living wax museum. 

Following are a few suggestions:

  • Explain to students that they will conduct research and submit a typed or hand-written biography which will include a few images. The biography, costume, and presentation will be assessed.
  • Provide students with due dates so that they stay on track. For example, you may give 2 weeks to conduct research, 2 weeks to gather costume/prop materials, and 2 weeks to memorize lines. This allows 6 weeks of total preparation time. Based on the age of your students and the needs of your class, adjust the time frames accordingly. 
  • Communicate that students will wear a costume during the presentation. 
  • Encourage students to brainstorm ideas for decorating their presentation backdrops. Posters and props work well.
  • Let students know that they will be required to memorize a 30-60 second speech (spoken in first-person) that summarizes the famous person’s major accomplishment(s). This speech may be accompanied by an action (such as holding a prop) or a certain pose.
  • Share that visitors will tap a bell or the student’s shoulder to signal that they would like the presenter to speak.
  • Schedule breaks for participants during the wax museum so that they have time to rest.
  • Book the cafeteria, auditorium, or multi-purpose room now so that it’s available on the day you need for hosting the museum. 
wax museum project ideas

Support Students In Doing Research.

Research is arguably the most important part of wax museum project ideas.

  • Review with students how to conduct research using books and reliable online resources. Consider compiling a list of websites that students may find helpful. is a good option to kickstart their efforts. Also, show them what it looks like to take notes using note cards or a notebook.
  • Support students in conducting research on their chosen person and writing a biography of said person. Consider providing a biography research template.
  • Explain to students that they must include in their biographies the person’s date of birth, date of death (if applicable), education, significant childhood experiences, hobbies, major accomplishments, and any other information that highlights the person’s popularity.
  • Ask students to choose a snapshot of the person’s life to represent during the actual museum. What will the child say and/or do during the 30-60 second, first-person speech?
  • Prompt students to pay attention to, during research, any information that helps them to sew what type of attire and props would be best to use during the museum exhibit. 

Plan the Wax Museum Layout and Backdrops.

This is the phase of creating the museum exhibit space. 

  • Choose a location with ample space. 
  • Sketch a floor plan to that you visualize how the finishing layout will look. This is important as each student will need his or her space to present.
  • Consider scheduling time for students to decorate their backdrops at school using butcher paper, construction paper, and images of their chosen person or idea. Solicit the assistance of parent volunteers and/or teacher aides is possible. 
wax museum project ideas
  • Send a simple invitation to parents, faculty, and teachers of grade-level peers/students from other grades.
  • Place at each station a bell that guests push when they would like the presenter to speak. Alternatively, visitors may tap presenters on the shoulder.
  • Schedule periods during class time to practice presentation etiquette with students. This includes discussions about exuding confidence, making eye contact, maintaining a raised voice, controlling speed, and paying attention to posture.  

Present the Living Wax Museum.

This is the most exciting phase of the wax museum project ideas.

  • Request that students arrive at school dressed in the appropriate attire.
  • Solicit the help of Room Parents or parent volunteers to assist with set-up and take-down. This includes placing posters, props, and bells in each student station.
  • Remind students to remain in character at all times except for scheduled breaks.

Final Thoughts On Wax Museum Project Ideas

Presenting a living wax museum project doesn’t have to be overwhelming and complicated. 

Download a wax museum project ideas note in PDF.