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Bring Golden Spike home: Utah 4th Graders launch letter-writing campaign

Granite School District 4th graders have launched a statewide letter-writing campaign to bring the Golden Spike back to Utah, where it belongs. What's notable about this campaign is that it is completely student led. In this blog, educators will find lesson plans and other tools to adapt the campaign for teaching informed civic action.


Utah is well-known for its historic role in the building of the transcontinental railroad; however many may be surprised to learn that the Golden Spike, the ceremonial final spike driven to join the rails of the transcontinental railroad, is not in Utah but instead housed at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in California.

Neil Armstrong Academy fourth grade teacher Mr. Pendleton traveled to San Francisco with his family last summer and visited the Cantor Arts Center to see the Golden Spike. Mr. Pendleton was shocked to find that there was no special display for the Golden Spike. In fact, there was not even a name plate identifying it, nor any kind of explanation as to what it was or its historical significance. This inspired Mr. Pendleton to create a writing assignment for his fourth grade class to write persuasive letters to the museum to convince them that the Golden Spike deserves an honored place in Utah. This writing assignment has since blossomed into a full-fledged media campaign led by Armstrong Academy fourth grade students requesting the Cantor Arts Center loan the Golden Spike, Silver Spike, and Silver Maul to the Museum of Utah.

Students in Mr. Pendleton’s class have worked with media partners to create a letter-writing campaign with the goal to get as many members of the Utah public involved in the campaign as possible using billboards, radio ads, TV ads, and social media. Students have created the website, a YouTube video, and a Facebook and Twitter page to spread the word about the campaign. Broadway Media Group and Compass Billboards have already generously donated ad space for students on their respective platforms, and students hope to get more advertising companies, media partners, and all schools across the state involved. Utahns interested in helping the letter-writing campaign can send letters directly to Armstrong Academy or submit their letters online using the student-created website. A teacher lesson plan has even been designed should teachers need additional support carrying out this activity with their students.

Armstrong Academy fourth grade students officially kicked off the student-led Spikes2Utah letter-writing campaign during a press conference at the school on Friday, April 7, 2023, at 10:00 a.m. They will be collecting letters until May 10th. Please join in this historic campaign to help bring the spikes home to Utah.

SEE IT TO BE IT. Check out some of the news coverage here:

Content courtesy of Stasha Wheeler, Granite School District Social Studies Specialist.

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