Utah is well-known for its historic role in the building of the transcontinental railroad; however many may be surprised to learn that the Golden Spike, the ceremonial final spike driven to join the rails of the transcontinental railroad, is not in Utah but instead housed at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in California.
Neil Armstrong Academy fourth grade teacher Mr. Pendleton traveled to San Francisco with his family last summer and visited the Cantor Arts Center to see the Golden Spike. Mr. Pendleton was shocked to find that there was no special display for the Golden Spike. In fact, there was not even a name plate identifying it, nor any kind of explanation as to what it was or its historical significance.
This inspired Mr. Pendleton to create a writing assignment for his fourth grade class to write persuasive letters to the museum to convince them that the Golden Spike deserves an honored place in Utah. This writing assignment has since blossomed into a full-fledged media campaign led by Armstrong Academy fourth grade students requesting the Cantor Arts Center loan the Golden Spike, Silver Spike, and Silver Maul to the Museum of Utah.
Students in Mr. Pendleton’s class have worked with media partners to create a letter-writing campaign with the goal to get as many members of the Utah public involved in the campaign as possible using billboards, radio ads, TV ads, and social media. Students have created the spikes2utah.org website, a YouTube video, and a Facebook and Twitter page to spread the word about the campaign.
“To them in California, it’s no big deal and to us in Utah it’s really big,” Katie Foster, a student in Mr. Pendleton’s fourth grade class, said about the Golden Spike. Her classmate, Jaden Chadwick, said he’s thrilled to have a part in the campaign to bring the Golden Spike home. “The reason I’m excited about it is because I’m glad I can help with something – you know something that’s important to the state.”
“Whether we’re successful or not in the campaign, the learning that’s happened along the way is just incredible for the students,” said Mr. Pendleton when speaking about how important authentic learning experiences such as the Spikes 2 Utah campaign are for students.
Broadway Media Group and Compass Billboards have already generously donated ad space for students on their respective platforms, and students hope to get more advertising companies, media partners, and all schools across the state involved. Mr. Pendleton also recently learned that NBC News will be sharing the Spikes 2 Utah campaign with students across the country as part of their “Nightly News: Kids Edition.”
Utahns interested in helping the letter-writing campaign can send letters directly to Armstrong Academy or submit their letters online using the student-created website.