Four hundred Spokane-area schoolchildren, most of them from West Valley School District, filled the seats of the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox on Thursday as part of a national bicentennial teach-in on Abraham Lincoln.
Thursday marked the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth on Feb. 12, 1809.
Three historians and a moderator answered questions from students over a live webcast from the National Archives in Washington, D.C., shown on a large video screen at the Fox.
West Valley schools over the past year have emphasized civic engagement as part of their history and social studies curriculum, and they focused this month on Lincoln because of his significance to American democracy and race relations.
“We thought it was a great opportunity for our kids to be able to come down here,” said City School teacher Jason Remington. “Obviously we learn a lot about Lincoln, but never to this kind of depth or the knowledge we got today. I think they learned a lot. I think there are a lot of interesting facts here that most kids don’t get from a textbook.”
Erika Folmer, a seventh-grader at City School, said she was thrilled to be at the Fox and found one detail most interesting: “I didn’t know he had kids, how well he was as a father.”
Lincoln was devoted to the oldest of his four sons after two of the younger ones died, the children were told.
“It’s a really good chance to learn, to figure out, to see a professional view of the story,” Folmer said.
The event demonstrated the potential for expanding student knowledge through Web-based learning. The program used a series of broadband connections across the country to bring school children together and was a collaboration of History.com and the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission.
It was hosted locally by the Spokane Symphony and the Fox as part of their outreach work in the Spokane region.
Also on Thursday, several dozen people gathered at the Lincoln Statue at Main Avenue and Monroe Street in downtown Spokane for a commemorative wreath-laying.
Members of the Washington Civil War Association – dressed in uniforms and clothing of the period – provided a color guard. Several carried firearms of the day. An assistant to U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers read a statement from the congresswoman to be entered into the Congressional Record on Thursday acknowledging the observance.
The event was organized by the Esther Reed Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. “He had honor, strength and courage,” said Julie Pittman, regent of the chapter. “May we continue to remember Abraham Lincoln. May he always stand tall here in Spokane.”
In an interview, Pittman said that Lincoln’s decisions and his ability to define the principles of the Declaration of Independence led directly to the Civil Rights movement of the 20th Century and helped pave the way for the election of President Obama, the country’s first black president.