The eighth graders in Bryan Hollister’s United States History class at Bridgeforth Middle School were recently asked to design flags for the “Lost State of Franklin,” and the results thoroughly impressed the veteran teacher.
Franklin was, in Hollister’s words, “an ill-fated attempt by early Americans to create a new state in the East Tennessee region.” This proposed 14th state was named after Benjamin Franklin and lasted less than five years — not even long enough to have its own flag.
Hollister asked the students to use their knowledge of the region and people at the time to design imagined flags, which were then presented to the school faculty for judging. The flags were judged on originality, creativity and relevance to the history of the region and people.
Five of the flags, designed by Janey McCormack, Brennan Perry, Giana Disilvio, Addison Lafoy and Telena Gentry, were voted by the teachers as the “best of the best” (in that order) and the winners were awarded their choice from a selection of prizes ranging from a bag of their favorite candy to being able to drop their lowest grade.
“I was blown away by the amount of thought that went into this by 100 eighth graders,” praised Hollister.
Many of the flags incorporated pictures of Benjamin Franklin and symbols such as the turkey he proposed as the national bird, notable quotes and the “Join or Die” snake imagery. The students also incorporated images of the Appalachian Mountains and plaid backgrounds representing the Scotch-Irish heritage of the populace of the region.
The purpose of this project, as well as other similar enrichment activities Hollister assigns, are to help the students “think about the ‘why’ and connect it to today.” He asks the students to create travel brochures for the American Colonies, maps of American expansion and the Trail of Tears, presidential campaign posters and other activities that allow students to think critically and go beyond rote memorization.
Hollister understands that test scores matter, but said “that’s not as important to me as that they get something out of this class, and three or four years down the road they remember what they learned when it comes up in their high school class or their younger sibling is doing the same project in my class.”