By Rachel E. Sheeley for the Palladium-ItemA visit by an Indianapolis fourth grade class to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site has been etched in stone.
The students' spring trip has been immortalized through an etched granite stone in the Coffin House's Freedom Walk. The walk honors donors to the house's 1968 restoration and others with engraved granite stones.
For years to come, the members of Janice Kosten's 1999 fourth grade class at Amy Beverland Elementary in Lawrence Township will be able to visit the historic house and see "their" stone. It reads: "Amy Beverland Elem. Kosten - 4th Class of 1999."
Visiting the Coffin House is an annual event for Kosten and her fourth-grade classes.
"We come over in the spring because the children learn about the Underground Railroad through their studies," Kosten said. "The stones have every year tugged at me. I thought it would be so nice if our class had one."
So on the bus trip home from Fountain City, Kosten invited her 30 member class to raise money to buy a Freedom Walk stone.
"You could have your own piece of Hoosier heritage for all time," she told them.
"The just thought that was terrific," Kosten said.
The students chose to raise money through their turn in the school's popcorn sale. Usually the money raised goes toward materials for the classroom or a special study trip.
Kosten said the students got behind their fund raiser; creating posters, raps, and poems to encourage other students at the school to support their sale.
She was so sure that the students would succeed that she mailed a check to the Levi Coffin House Association for the stone with the hopes it would be completed before the end of the school year; giving the students a chance to see a photograph of it.
When the popcorn sale too place, Kosten said, "The whole school supported us like no other popcorn sale had been supported all year long."
The students needed to raise $207.50 to reimburse Kosten for the stone and lettering. By selling popcorn at 50 cents a bag to almost every one of the school's 657 students and its staff members, they earned $323.
"It was just phenomenal," Kosten said. "it was just a real exciting project."
After repaying Kosten and subtracting their popcorn sales costs, the students chose to send the leftover funds to the Coffin House as well instead of spending it on their classroom.
Because of a school year lengthened by snow days, the students were still in school when their stone was finished. Kosten posted a photograph of it for the students to see.
"It was so exciting to watch their faces," Kosten said. "I think that's really missing today. ....I think a lot of kids don't feel an attachment to being a part of something historical. The kids can now take their kids to see the home and stand by their stone and say, "Hey, this is our class."
"I hope a lot of teachers will read this and encourage their students to find something so they will have a touchstone. This is such a good thing because the millennium is coming next year....It's just such a unique thing. The whole sidewalk could be filled up next year will all those classes with a touchstone for the millennium, " Kosten said.
The fourth-graders enthusiasm and donations thrilled Saundra Jackson, treasurer of the Levi Coffin House Association.
"I thought it was a really neat idea," Jackson said.
Jackson said the Coffin House welcomes any class, organization or individual who is interested in donating to the Freedom Walk. For more information, contact the Coffin House at (765) 847-2432 or P.O. Box 77, Fountain City, IN 47341.