By Jim Misunas
LARNED – Three Northside Elementary School students were honored by Fort Larned National Historic Site Rangers during a brief ceremony Friday afternoon.
Northside student Halle Barker and teacher Doug Anderson; student Ethan Haas and teacher Jennie Erway; and student Andreus Tucker and teacher Blake Ploger were honored for creating the best treasure boxes in a project patterned after the story of “A Tale of Two Towns.”
Fourth-grade classes at Northside Elementary School recently heard the “A Tale of Two Towns,” which tells about the start of the Santa Fe Trail through the eyes of 11-year old George Becknell. The story tells about a father’s birthday gift to his son – a treasure chest.
As a class exercise, Ellen Jones, Park Ranger, instructed Northside students to gather items kept in a treasure box that might have been discovered in the 1800s. Each student received a cardboard “treasure box,” similar to what the young George Becknell was given in 1821. George saved valuable keepsakes in his treasure box.
“Did you learn something?” Jones asked.
Students responded that they had learned many things about the Santa Fe Trail.
The students had two weeks to decorate and collect treasures for their box and compose an essay about the items they collected that could date back to the 1820-1880s time. The winners were awarded gift cards from the Western National Bookstore at Fort Larned.
“You have made Kansas come alive,” Jones said to students.
Ranger Jones and the Fort Larned National Historic Site, presented “A Tale of Two Towns,” in the traveling trunks educational program that local historian David Clapsaddle started.
Jones showed real artifacts, mementos and pictures from a vintage wooden footlocker from the Santa Fe Trail era. Jones illustrated showed photos of groundhogs, buffaloes, jackrabbits, wild horses and travelers. The students viewed a musketball, a shell, a rattlesnake tail and a turkey beard.
Col. Howard Becknell, George’s father, pioneered the first 900-mile crossing from Missouri to Santa Fe, N.M in 1821. The Santa Fe Trail Wet and Dry Routes passed through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico.