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Class project hopes to bring important piece of history back to Utah

Posted at 5:44 PM, Apr 07, 2023

WEST VALLEY CITY — There’s so much rich history in the state of Utah, but if you were to choose just one of the most defining moments, it might have to be the driving in of the Golden Spike, when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed near Corinne.

It's something every elementary student across the state and country learns about, but one fourth grade class is taking it a step further to solidify that legacy as a piece of Utah history.

The lessons learned of the joining of east and west and the shiny spike that went along with it continue to awe students to this day, but incredibly, the monumental pieces of Utah history... aren’t even in Utah.

"I was really shocked by it because I'm like, why aren't they here in Utah? Because it's really important," said fourth grade student Katie Foster.

Teacher David Pendleton says his students are always surprised to learn the spikes aren't found in the Beehive State. The Golden Spikes are one of Pendleton’s favorite topics, so when he got the chance to visit them at the Cantor Arts Center on the campus of Stanford University, he jumped at the chance.

"I wanted to go and take a picture of the Golden Spike that I could just bring back and show my students each year," he said. "But there's no lettering or plaque even identifying what it is. Nothing explaining its history or its significance. And that was really puzzling to me."

So Pendleton decided to do something about it.

"I thought it might be a fun writing activity to give my students each year," he explained.

A letter writing campaign to bring the two spikes and hammer used to drive them in back to Utah.

"It just took off and got legs of its own and became this really big, really cool thing," said Pendleton.

"In California it's no big deal, but to us it's really big!" said Foster, who is in Pendleton's fourth grade class at Neil Armstrong Academy.

 The students say they have fun on the project and the teamwork that comes with it. The project is... picking up steam... with state officials and schools across Utah coming on board.

 "We all became this freight train running through just going faster and faster and faster," said Pendleton.

And if it works?

"I probably, after school, I'd just go home and say we got the spikes and just yell out!" said student Ari Thomas.

But spikes or not, the project has already been a worthwhile effort for the students.

"I think they just love being a part of that," Pendleton said. "They're going to be able to draw back on this. And remember, I remember that time in fourth grade that we created that statewide public campaign."