For the past eight years, the Colonial Heritage Festival has been held over the 4th of July in Orem, showcasing a colonial living and re-enactment event so attendees can learn what life was like in the 18th century.
On March 20, Altara Elementary fifth graders got a taste of colonial times as they met print shop owner Isaiah Thomas and Founding Father, and statesman, Benjamin Franklin.
As part of the Colonial Heritage Foundation, these actors and historians travel to elementary schools to share the values of the Founding Fathers of the country and to bring history to life, Foundation member Veronica Allen said.
Allen and her husband Gove, who is the president of the non-profit organization, became involved when their children were selling bread to earn their way to Williamsburg, Va. to learn more about the country’s past. Foundation member Greg Hardy, who portrays Franklin, invited them to sell it at the festival, and instead, they made and sold the bread there.
“Many of the values our country was founded on have become lost and we want students to become aware of those,” Gove Allen said, who portrayed Isaiah Thomas. “We use real artifacts, and for those who come to the festival, we share America’s founding values.”
Students had four rotations at the school. At one, they learned from Boy Scout Learning for Life Coordinator Georgia Smith about character traits of the colonists, such as being loyal, honest, trustworthy, dependable and helpful.
At another rotation, students saw a model replica of the Mayflower in progress and learned that after 66 days of crossing the Atlantic, the colonists lived on board through the harsh winter and drew up the Mayflower Compact as their governing law.
Students also learned what it was like to be a printer, and to learn a trade at a young age, as did Isaiah Thomas, who started at seven years old. They made copies of the Declaration of Independence on a replica printing press that took the Foundation more than 800 hours to build. Teachers got to keep a copy, along with other items printed on the press, for their classrooms.
The final rotation was Benjamin Franklin sharing his life story, from his inventions to different jobs he held, from gathering grease to make candles to learning the printing trade. Franklin shared with students things he learned, such as the concept of supply and demand and to “put some money away and don’t spend it as fast as you can.” The students learned how coins were chopped away with an ax to make change as they passed revolutionary coins around, and how everything back then was made out of horns, such as a shoehorn.
“The students are getting first-hand experience back in the colonial time period so they can better visualize the origins of our country,” fifth-grade teacher Lorie Easter said. “We’re studying the Revolutionary War, so they are really getting into this and it’s cool for them to see. Often, social studies can seem so boring for them as they read it from a book. This makes it come alive.”