The third-graders, ready with questions, squatted at the feet of a woman waiting to share her piece of history.
Elinor Otto answered a U.S. government Rosie the Riveter ad in 1942, taking a factory job vacated by men fighting in World War II. The young mother built parts for B-17 and B-24 airplanes that flew in the war.
About two dozen students from Drexel Avenue Elementary School in Westbury on Wednesday peppered her with questions, such as if she thought she had made history, her salary and when she stopped working.
To that, she said: "I'm still working. I'm only 95."
Otto visited the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City as part of the Spirit of '45, an effort to honor the Greatest Generation, and which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of the war's end next year.
Responding to another question about how the women earned the respect of their male colleagues, Otto said: "By doing our job and doing it well -- and even doing it better than them."
About 6 million women answered Rosie's call of "We Can Do It!" and worked in factories.
"It was a challenge to do men's work for the first time in history," said Otto, a Long Beach, California, resident. "That was important because we were going to win the war. We had to help."
Otto said she earned 65 cents an hour when she started working.
She worked for Rohr Aircraft in Chula Vista, California, and Ryan Aircraft in San Diego.
She and other female riveters were laid off days after the war ended on Aug. 14, 1945.
Otto did office work and worked as a waitress before returning to building airplane parts at Ryan Aircraft in 1951.
She now works the 5 a.m. weekday shift riveting the gas tanks that are installed into the wings of a C-17 at a Boeing plant in Long Beach, California. The plant is scheduled to close next year, she said.
Another student wanted to know if she was always so brave.
She wasn't necessarily brave, she said, just the same person she has always been.
"You have to fight your way when you're working with men," she said. "I'm still doing it because there's a big rivet gun at work; they don't think I can handle it."
She added: "But I did. I grabbed it and worked on it . . . and I said 'I'm not as fragile as I look because I've been working with this rivet gun since you guys were born, before you were born,' "
Warren Hegg, national program manager of the Spirit of '45, said Otto "personifies the spirit of her generation better than any woman I've ever met."
Her grandson John Perry persuaded Otto to travel the country to tell her story.
Her story can also inspire adults because if a 95-year-old who is still riveting "doesn't inspire you to get up to go to work, nothing will," said Perry, who accompanied Otto to the museum.
Late Wednesday, Otto and Perry flew back to Long Beach. She plans to be at work Friday morning.