Citizen Writer Challenge
Take a Letter Winners
American History is filled with courageous, inventive people whose lives changed our own in big ways and small. The Founding Fathers of course come to mind, but there are many others whose discoveries, ideas, and actions made an impact on us. Choose a person from history and write them a letter. This isn't one of those "How are you? Wish you were here." letters someone makes you write. This letter should be tailored to your special historical pen pal and inform this person about aspects of our lives now that they would especially be interested in.
For instance, if you choose a scientist, what kinds of questions do you think he/she would have about science, research, and medicine today? What would you tell them about their legacy? What would be most surprising to them? What would you like to ask them about their work? Your letter should demonstrate that you have researched your historical pen pal and have a good understanding of who this person was and what they did.
K-Grade 2 (Level I)
Dear Thomas Edison,
My name is Arya and I am a big fan of yours, especially because I was born in a town called Edison which is named after you. Just kidding! This town is very close to your Menlo Park laboratory in New Jersey. This is my first letter to you and I have a lot of fun facts to tell you. And I promise to write more letters if you write back to me.
Firstly, a lot of things have changed since you invented the phonograph. Nowdays we have ipods and other mp3 players which are the size of a matchbox. These ipods can hold 1000's of songs and you can listen to them through headphones which fit in your ears.
During festivals we light up the houses and trees with colorful L.E.D light. Also there are halogen and fluorescent lights that are way different from the incandescent light bulb you invented in 1879. People still honor you for inventing the light bulbs. However, did you know that some people in poor countries still do not have electricity and light?
Since you invented motion picture camera, I am sure you would like to know that we now have 3D movies. This means that things seem to pop out from the movie screen. Also most people own a camcorder which is like your motion picture camera but records in color and fits in a little pouch that you can carry.
I read on the internet that when you worked on the railways there was an accident and your laboratory in a boxcar caught fire! This will never happen today because they don't allow dangerous chemicals on trains any more.
Since you had started a newspaper in your younger days I think you might like this. People still sell paper newspapers but many people read the news on the internet. If you want to know what internet is and how the world has changed write back to me soon!
Stay in touch
Grades 3-5 (Level II)
Dear Thomas Edison,
The electric light you made has been improved to electric lights that last for more than a month or maybe even a year! Because of the electric light that you invented, we don't have to use a candle for light. The electric light is safer to use than the candle, but the light bulb we use today could be dangerous depending on the type. Today if you keep a kind of light bulb that gets hot easily, then it could make a fire! So you shouldn't take chances and hold it without an adult. You could also burn yourself by touching the light bulb.
The kinetoscope or the motion pictures have now been evolved into the television (a 3-dimensional unit that shows real people or cartoons that are moving). It includes sound and color. Inside the television there is a mechanical structure that is like the kinetoscope, but smaller. There is a system inside the television which helps show colors. More than half of Americans watch television now.
The talking doll is also a great improvement. They are now available everywhere around the world. But not only can they talk, they can also move. When I saw the inside of the doll for the first time it had a speaker and every time I pushed or squeezed the doll, it made a sound which became louder when my ear was closer to the speaker. The doll isn't always made of wax now. It could be made up of plastic as well.
One of the inventions you made, that we use today in school, is the projector. We use it to project things from the computer (a computer is a device that helps research, type, hear music, and play games) like math problems. It has most of the same characteristics as the television does, like sound and color.
The exceptional phonograph you made is still popular. It is almost everywhere you go. An example of such a device is a radio (a box that lets you hear the news, weather, and music). Over time the phonograph has been developed into recorders that are not so big. There's also a video camera that is like a phonograph except it can record a video with sound and you can play it as many times as you need.
You would be pretty interested in the iPod which is a device that is very thin and it is very short, it also has recorded music like your phonograph. The iPod can take pictures and even has a calendar. So the iPod technically has most of the characteristics from your inventions. Now they are making an iPad which is like the iPod except it's bigger. The kindle is a device that helps you read multiple books. The kindle is also a product that uses your phonograph, but in this case while listening to the book.
Computers are machines that help us do things quicker than we could do without them. They have screens about the size of a book cover and have a lot of cables and wires so that it can do what the computer normally does like having sound. Laptops are portable computers, but they don't have as many wires and cables as computers have, so they aren't exactly the same. Laptops can run out of battery, therefore the laptops come with a power supply to recharge the battery.
- What made you think of the phonograph idea?
- How many times did it take to build the kinetoscope?
- Did anything dangerous happen when you tried to make inventions?
- What kind of electronics or systems did you use to make the projector?
Thank you for reading!
Grades 6-8 (Level III)
Dear Martin Luther King Jr.,
Society has transformed itself since the 1900's when you were last here. For example, separation between races no longer exists in the United States due to the change you once made. Although, many races, religions, and etc. still have hate for each other because of their differences. It is now permitted that each citizen of the United States is to be treated equally, and I feel we have finally realized our differences over the years and the fact that no one is the same.
In your time did you ever doubt a change in this world or did you know that things would eventually change? Today, schools no longer own separate bathrooms, water fountains, or lunch tables; everyone hangs out with everyone. In your time were blacks and whites ever in relationships? Well, they are now. Races from all over the world have come together and I believe there are no restrictions as to what kind of people we can marry.
Not only did you change the past for you and your people but you changed the future for mine and my people simply by speaking your opinion towards your own kind, and I greatly appreciate you for that. Without you I feel as if change wouldn't have been made until years later because nobody has the confidence these days to speak their mind and stand up for what they believe in.
What was it like giving all those speeches knowing half the audience dreaded the thought of coming together? I couldn't begin to imagine how hard it would have been.
Grades 9-12 (Level IV)
Dear President Franklin Delano Roosevelt,
As you know, during your presidency, our nation was in the midst of the greatest depression we had ever seen. You put into place your "new deal" programs and practiced a policy of "deficit spending" to stimulate our nation's economy. Also, one could argue that, financially speaking, World War II was beneficial to our economy because we were able to produce war supplies and sell them to warring nations with your "cash and carry" policy. The United States of America emerged from this war the most powerful nation in the world. We were the world leader.
There are many similarities to the turbulent times of your presidency and the turbulent times of our present day. About two and half years ago, our world economy shattered, sending the United States into the greatest recession we have ever experienced. Some financial experts and historians are calling the time I am living in now, "The Great Recession." You may also be interested to know that our current president, Barrack Obama, the first ever African-American president- Eleanor would have loved that- has enacted a stimulus bill not unlike your "New Deal" policy. Not only are we in the midst of a recession, but we are also in the midst of two wars in the Middle East, fighting terrorism and dictatorships. Similar to your "cash and carry" policy we are currently supplying military aid, along with our allies, to the warring nation of Libya. We, and our NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies are using weapons to stop the dictator, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya, weapons we would not have without the Manhattan Project. Also, along with our wars and stimulus bills, we still very much practice the art of "deficit spending", which, as you know, is spending money while we are in severe debt to other nations. We are spending a tremendous amount of money on military defense, yet buying the materials from foreign countries. Although we are mimicking all of your methods on taking our economy out of a recession, it is not working for us quite as well as we hoped. Our country remains in a recession.
Why is it that our country's economy remains in this recession? There is one key difference in the culture of the generation during your presidency and my generation. We have become a nation of consumers. During your presidency, the citizens rose to challenges when they were faced with them. We were a nation of producers. We produced goods, and we sold them. We took our nation out of a depression and won a world war through production, hard work, and determination. Nowadays, Americans have taken the prosperity of our country so for-granted, that nobody wants to work anymore. Americans would much rather have things made for them than make it themselves, so they move jobs to countries like China and India. The citizens of this country, especially the teenagers, have become lazy. Like my high school wrestling coach always says, "If your generation were placed into World War II, we'd all be speaking German by now." That, I believe, is the reason why we are still in this recession. Everybody wants to get out of it, but nobody is willing to work to get ourselves out of it.