Elementary students from Hays and surrounding areas visited the campus of Fort Hays State University on Monday, September 17 in order to attend the Ben Franklin Papers activities, coordinated and hosted by the American Democracy Project in conjunction with the participation of the Forsyth Library and the Center for Civic Leadership.
The Forsyth Library possesses two original Benjamin Franklin letters, along with two pages of the Pennsylvania Gazette. According to Patty Nicholas, university archivist, the documents were donated in 2006 by FHSU alumnus Cecil Currey, who passed away in March 2013.
Due to their fragility, the documents are only on display for a brief period of time throughout the year in the Forsyth Library. During the period of time that the documents are on display, local elementary students are able to learn about the history of one of America’s founding fathers.
“The different activities promote the learning of the children,” Nicholas said. “Some children are more hands-on learning, and some of the stations help them with that.”
David S. Bovee, associate professor of history, began the daily activities in which students would participate with a presentation chronicling Benjamin Franklin’s inventions, papers, and other historical aspects.
“Franklin not only published Poor Richard’s Almanac, discovered the conductivity of electricity, and invented bifocals,” Bovee said. “He also promoted the Albany Plan for the union of the 13 colonies, negotiated the alliance with France that helped the United States gain its independence, negotiated the peace treaty with Britain that recognized American independence, and participated in the writing of the United States Constitution.”
According to several teachers of the students attending, fifth-graders find the field-trip an exciting endeavor. At the same time, it aids the process of learning about the history of the United States.
“I think it will be a great history lesson for them with a lot of fun and exciting content,” said Kerri Lacy Lincoln Elementary teacher. She accompanied her pupils for the day’s activities.
Lacy had her students read the letters and cover history material pertaining to Franklin’s life before visiting the FHSU campus.
“We read through the material, the actual Benjamin Franklin letters, and discussed them before coming here,” Lacy said.
During the presentation, Bovee interacted with students and quizzed them about the life of Benjamin Franklin.
“I do enjoy interacting with the 5th graders. They are a different kind of audience from college students,” Bovee said. “They are eager and inquisitive. They come well-prepared by their teachers. They are ready to learn and to share what they have learned.”
Student workers from the American Democracy Project, along with student volunteers and library staff, aided the process of coordinating activities. Multiple stations were set up throughout the Forsyth Library. The fifth-graders participated in activities including scavenger hunts, creating stamps, and learning about Franklin’s inventions.
The event also promoted informing college students of the documents available at the Forsyth Library, and raised awareness of the involvement that the college has with the Hays community.
“I didn’t know that the library had original Benjamin Franklin documents,” said Cindy Hoang, sophomore. “I just saw kids coming to the auditorium and thought they were going for a play or something. It is a great idea that the college helps kids learn about the history of the United States.”