Dozens of tiny Abraham Lincolns honored the historical icon's 208th birthday this week

By Erin Hill
February 14, 2017 02:07 PM
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Credit: The Packer Collegiate Institute

Dozens of tiny Abraham Lincolns honored the historical icon’s 208th birthday this week.

Dressed in handmade stovepipe hats and beards, fourth-graders from the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn Heights recited the Gettysburg Address at the Oculus, a transportation hub near the site of the World Trade Center in N.Y.C., on Monday. The students have been immersed in a study of the life of President Lincoln and his work to end slavery.

“Lincoln is a tremendous person to study, both in terms of his personal life and struggles and in connection with what he accomplished as President,” head teacher Tim Jensen tells PEOPLE. “I also feel that for 9- and 10-year-olds, dressing up and appearing before other students is an initially terrifying but shortly thereafter confidence-inspiring experience, one they will never forget.”

Credit: Lily Jensen

“They speak in the first person about Lincoln, telling stories and answering questions from students and the teachers,” Jensen adds of the Tiny Lincolns Project. “Doing little else besides studying Lincoln for three weeks straight makes the experience intense and memorable.”

Jensen, who has been conducting the Tiny Lincolns Project for 20 years, says that his students this year are more passionate about the project than any class before.

Credit: Alex Yaggy

“My class has definitely been interested in comparing Abraham Lincoln to Donald Trump,” he says. “I also think that our students have wanted to be more active than classes of past years — writing letters to our political representatives, joining parents in large public demonstrations, etc.”

The students themselves say they’ve learned a lot from studying Lincoln’s life and presidency.

“People should look up to Lincoln because he was someone who was brave enough to act and work to ban slavery in the United States,” one student tells PEOPLE. “You shouldn’t give up on your goals — you should continue working on them.”

Credit: Rebecca Silverstein

Another student adds, “It was energizing, and it made me inspired to do more because of how much good Abraham Lincoln has done.”

Jensen has encouraged his class to really pay attention to this time in their lives and to learn as much as they can in the process.

“I’ve told them to remember these years and what is happening, because they and their experience are now parts of history, and they will later be asked, ‘What was it like after the election of 2016?’ “