LIMA — Pupils at Shawnee’s Maplewood Elementary School got a firsthand look at history Friday, as author Rick Sowash brought a variety of Ohio heroes to life.
Students dressed up to portray a variety of figures from throughout the region’s history, from Johnny Appleseed and Tecumseh from the pioneer days to Toni Morrison and Neil Armstrong of a more modern era.
Cathy Butler, a reading teacher at Maplewood who helped the children prepare for Friday’s presentation, was very happy with how they performed.
“Some of them were really nervous, but they did great,” she said. “Typically we spend a good three or four weeks preparing, but with the (weather) delays, it was more like two or three weeks.”
A great deal of research went into the students’ preparations.
“It’s a fourth-grade project that combines the social studies and language arts curriculum,” Butler said. “Each student had to choose a figure from Ohio and research them for a written project. We also asked for ones who would be willing to dress up and become that hero. They also each had to give a speech, so it was a big project.”
Sowash, who last visited the school in 2011, was also pleased with how his cast performed.
“The kids were well prepared,” he said. “For many of them, this was the first time up in front of a crowd, so they were a little bit nervous, but I told them I’d be there to help them. This school has always done a great job.”
Each of the individuals portrayed shared one special quality, according to Sowash.
“My definition of a hero is someone who volunteers to do something difficult to help other people,” he said.
Sowash also emphasized that although many of the heroes mentioned are famous, such as Ulysses S. Grant or Armstrong, what defines fame today does not necessarily equate to heroism.
“My book is not only about famous heroes,” he said. “I made it a point to include heroes who were not famous because I want the kids to understand that not everyone who is a hero is necessarily famous, and conversely, not everyone who’s famous is necessarily a hero.”
For years, Sowash has toured the state, visiting more than 2,000 schools and sharing Ohio’s rich history with more than 750,000 children. For many of the children and parents, some of what Sowash has to say came as a surprise.
“People are often surprised that some of these people I mention were from Ohio,” he said. “I actually had more than 100 people I could have put into the book. There were a lot of heroes I had to leave out.”
In sharing the stories of several heroes from Ohio’s past, Sowash is hopeful to encourage some of Ohio’s future heroes to get out and volunteer to help others.
“By doing something challenging to help other people, you could be a hero also,” he told the assembly.