• Kansas Day highlights state’s history, culture

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    On Jan. 29, 1861, Kansas officially joined the United States. Since 1877, that day has officially been recognized as Kansas Day, and Unified School District 207 celebrated with its Kansas Day event Jan. 29 in the Patton Junior High School gym.
    “Schools in our district have been celebrating Kansas Day for several years, each in their own unique ways. Four years ago, we consolidated the efforts so that it could become a district event,” said SuAnn Grant, USD 207 deputy superintendent. “As educators in Kansas, we want to encourage our students to learn more about the state’s history whether they will only reside in Kansas one year or become lifelong residents.
    “Our goal is to expose students to the rich history and heritage of Kansas through a variety of learning opportunities,” she said.
    Throughout the day, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students from Bradley, Eisenhower, and MacArthur Elementary Schools and seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-grade students from Patton arrived at the gym and interacted with 14 different vendors at stations that represented a part of Kansas history, including an apple cider press, Civil War re-enactors, log sawing, and pioneer women and children.
    “We hope that being able to see and touch real items from previous generations before, including the military uniforms of the Buffalo Soldiers and the artifacts of the Frontier Army Museum, will inspire a love of learning, particularly history, in our students,” Grant said.
    “We want the students to learn what life might have been like for the early Kansas settlers,” added Deena Gardner, USD 207 executive administrative assistant.
    Quilting was one of the 14 activity stations at the event.
    Annie Farquhar, quilting representative and USD 207 learning technology coordinator, said quilting was multifaceted in the 1800s.
    “It was to keep warm, it was the very little bit of décor that they could have to make their place look a little nicer, and it was an activity to do in the evenings,” Farquhar said. “You (quilt) by candlelight because there is nothing else that you can do. You’re either going to read or do piece work.”
    Farquhar had various quilt pieces for the children to use to assemble their own mini-design for a quilt, and she took a picture of them with their finished designs.
    “They’re having fun with that,” she said. “Unfortunately, I don’t have enough for them to take one home.”
    Patton art teacher Ronie McBride showed the students how to crochet.
    “Crochet started in the 1800s. This was a pioneer thing. As long as you had yarn and a hook, you could make a blanket, scarf, a baby bonnet,” McBride said.
    Page 2 of 3 - While she spoke with the students, McBride made chain stitch bookmarks for them to take home and had extra yarn so they could practice themselves.
    “It is a life skill because you can make blankets, things you use every day like dishcloths, scrubby sponges, and it is becoming a dying art,” she said. “It is working with your hands, it is not technology based, and it is hand-eye coordination, and it keeps your brain active, too.”
    The Indian Homes in Kansas display featured models of teepees, earthen sod houses and grass houses, as well as various tools the Indians used when they lived in Kansas.
    “There is so much rich heritage, and there is so much history that the kids don’t know about,” said Jes Luther, USD 207 director of grant programming and Indian homes representative. “It is so important that they learn, and with the Indians, they used the natural resources they had and Kansas had some good ones.”
    Students had differing opinions on which display was their favorite. Eisenhower fourth-grader Johniyah Coleman said she liked the log sawing.
    “You get to chop something,” Coleman said. “Then you get to keep a piece of wood that is from an oak tree. I feel very grateful that they set this up and spend the time with us.”
    Bradley fourth-grader Dylan Shandy said she liked the apple cider booth.
    “They make really good apple cider with no sugar, and it looks really hard to make,” Shandy said. “I like that we go to Patton and see all these interesting facts.”
    MacArthur fourth-grader Zadie Niblock said she liked the pioneer women and children station.
    “They have these super cool dolls and figurines,” she said.
    Throughout the year, the students have been learning about Kansas history in their classrooms, but the teachers agreed that having an event such as Kansas Day provides an even bigger learning opportunity.
    “Anytime we can do anything hands-on, I think the kids remember it more,” said Tammy Irminger, MacArthur fourth-grade teacher. “They’re able to visualize it, feel it, touch it, talk to some experts and add that to the hands-on experience.”
    “They’re immersed in it,” said Toni Bishop, Eisenhower fourth-grade teacher. “They’re immersed into the culture, what it was like during that time. So, I think it is important that they get to participate in it.”
    Shelbie Leintz, Bradley fourth-grade teacher, said being able to physically cut the wood and make the cider will allow the information to stick with them, which may lead to them sharing the information with others.
    Page 3 of 3 - “Some of them aren’t here for very long, and they can take that knowledge where they go next,” Leintz said. “I think it is cool that some of them have learned about other states they’ve lived in, and they can teach me about it. So, if they’re learning about Kansas, maybe they can go to their next school and teach somebody about Kansas.”
    Grant said the event would not be possible without the support of the vendors, parents and soldiers who help, and is an example of the patriotism the district wants to share with the students.
    “Sparking children’s interest in history can lead to feeling patriotic feelings about Kansas as well as the United States,” she said. “Because we value the leadership and sacrifices of our military families, Kansas Day is an example of one of our school district’s events in which we celebrate patriotism with our students.”
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