Students ‘travel’ on Kansas Day
Lansing schoolchildren celebrated Kansas' 146th birthday with hands-on classroom activities that honored the Sunflower State's past and present.
Fourth-graders at Lansing Intermediate School kicked off the celebration Monday morning, Jan. 29, with the inaugural three-day event Kansas Days.
Students learned about quilting, jewelry-making, food preservation, famous Kansans and education in a one-room schoolhouse.
During their visits to eleven stations filled with history and interactive learning, they discussed the challenges the state's pioneers encountered before and after the state's admission to the Union as a free state on Jan. 29, 1861.
Teacher Carol Caplinger led students on a realistic tour of the Underground Railroad, a network that ran through Kansas and led slaves to freedom.
At each stopping point, students experienced the nuances of the network, including quilt codes and secret knocks, which helped slaves and abolitionists navigate a path to freedom.
The tour ended in a safe house: a dark closet with an oil lamp dimly lighting the way while students munched on a small biscuit.
"Congratulations," Caplinger whispered to the fourth-graders. "You made it to the safe house, but men with dogs have been out looking for you. You can't stay long," she said.
Down the hall, students learned about Dodge City, once known as "the wickedest little city in America."
Parent volunteer Michelle Nelson told students how Fort Dodge protected soldiers and wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail.
Eventually, Nelson said, cattle drives and buffalo hunts attracted cowboys and hunters, and their desire for entertainment brought saloons and gambling and dance halls to Dodge City.
Students created advertisements that might have appeared in the cow town circa 1870.
Sydney Pendleton and Jena Goebel designed an ad for cowboy boots.
"When they're riding horses they have to have boots. The boots protect them. They can't just wear shoes," Sydney said.
First-graders at Lansing Elementary School also were commemorating the day by donning prairie costumes and participating in hands-on activities of their own.
Nancy Collard's and Christine Bachtel's classes collaborated Monday morning to create a buffalo drawing using their graphing skills.
And Collard read a chapter from the book "Early Days in Kansas" to the students while they passed around a furry play buffalo.
During the afternoon, the first-graders learned about rockets and astronauts from parent volunteer retired Navy Commander David Christie.
An instructor at the U. S. Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Christie showed several rockets to the first-graders and answered their questions about space. He encouraged them to further explore the state's history with a visit to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchison.
Kaitlyn Smith, a first-grader, said the best part of the birthday party was drawing pictures of the heavy snowfalls that often covered the Plains in Kansas' early days.
"It was really fun," she said.