Tonganoxie students honor famous Kansans
Several Tonganoxie Elementary School second-graders might have revealed some sweet teeth when they turned in their Kansas Day projects.
TES teacher Deanna Sittner asked each of her students to select a famous Kansan — past or present — in honor of Kansas Day, which is today. Each student created a research wheel about a famous Kansan and then students presented their findings to the rest of the class.
“A lot of people are into chocolate this year,” Sittner said, thumbing through the research wheels. “I’ve never had so many Russell Stovers.”
Russell Stover is a popular candy. Its namesake is from Kansas, having grown up in Osborne County.
Some selected Emmett Kelly, who was born in Sedan and was part of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus as a clown, most notably as the character “Weary Willie.”
Others picked Atchison aviator Amelia Earhart, George Washington Carver and former Kansas University football and NFL players Gale Sayers and John Riggins. Sayers grew up in Omaha, Neb., before attending KU, while Riggins grew up in the small town of Centralia in Nemaha County. Carver grew up in Minneapolis, Kan., near Salina.
The aforementioned Kansans were on a list Sittner provided the class as suggestions, but students could also select their own Kansans to profile.
Second-grader Audrey Glynn’s choice wasn’t on the list: Vice President Charles Curtis. Born and raised in Topeka, Curtis served in the U.S. House and Senate before becoming vice president under Herbert Hoover.
Audrey picked Curtis because of his historic selection.
“He was the only Native American vice president, so I chose him,” she said.
Asked what she liked most about Kansas, Audrey said “the country.”
Martina McBride was another popular Kansan among the second-graders.
Lyric Yost chose McBride, who grew up in Sharon, which is southwest of Wichita.
She opted for McBride because she was a singer.
Lyric’s father has two bands and many female singers perform country music, Lyric said.
The music “reminds me of cowboys and cowgirls,” Lyric said.
The second-grader’s favorite thing about Kansas: She’s able to visit several family members who live in the state.
She previously lived in Waco, Texas, and also likes the Lone Star State.
“I don’t mean to be mean, but I like Texas because it’s not shivering cold there,” Lyric said.
James Naismith, inventor of basketball and KU’s first coach in the sport, caught the eye of several students as well.
Brayden Harber said he selected Naismith as his famous Kansan “because my mom knows a lot about him.”
But he also liked Naismith because he likes the Jayhawks, specifically current basketball players Andrew Wiggins and Perry Ellis.
During his research, Brayden said he also found that in some circles Naismith, originally from Canada, also is credited with inventing the first football helmet.
Sittner, who has taught in Tonganoxie for nearly a decade, said her classes have done the Kansan fact wheels for several years.
The cool thing is that this is their first foray into research,” Sittner said.
Monday, the class continued learning about the Sunflower State in preparation for Kansas Day today.
Students colored bookmarks highlighting various Kansas symbols, including the Jayhawk.
Sittner, a Kansas State University graduate, reminded the students that the Jayhawk had a different meaning during the Civil War years than the present-day mascot.
“Cats eat birds, right?” Sittner joked with the class.
Kansas celebrates its 153rd birthday today. It was admitted to the union Jan. 29, 1861.