Ben Franklin puts charge into students

Historical Perspectives for Children performer visits Cunniff School

Did you know that Ben Franklin went to the Cunniff School?

Rich, an actor who played Ben Franklin, performed a one-man show for students Jan. 17. He came dressed with different wigs, canes, hats and clothes. They represented different times in Ben’s life. These included when he was a candle shop owner, printer, writer, statesman, and inventor.

Rich, as Ben, told interesting stories about each part of his life.

The show was written by Joan Schaeffer of Historical Perspectives for Children. While Ben Franklin was at the Cunniff, she was at work Chicago.

In an e-mail interview with Cunniff Kids News, she said she decided to write a show about Ben Franklin for many reasons.

“First, he very closely complemented several areas of your school curriculum such as science (static electricity), social studies (the colonial period and the founding of our country) and language arts. (Ben was also a writer!),” Schaeffer wrote.

“Also, I do consider him to be a true role model for students as his life story teaches how anyone — any of you students — can set goal and achieve them through hard work, determination, and a belief in yourselves.”

Schaeffer, who has put together 11 other shows, wrote that Franklin always tried to make life better for others.

“Indeed, he started each morning with the question, ‘What good can I do today?’ And he ended each evening with, ‘What good have I done today?’ What a good example for the rest of us!” she wrote.

To write her plays, Schaeffer has to do a lot of research.

“I learn about my characters from reading many, many books and from visiting the places where they grew up and lived. I find that from actually visiting the places where they lived, I can learn more about who they really were and gain a deeper understanding of what motivated them to do and achieve what they did,” she wrote.

“For Ben Franklin, I, of course, visited Boston, but I also spent time in Philadelphia since this is where he lived from the age of 17. I also went down to Texas to see the international exhibit they had there about Ben Franklin. They had many interesting artifacts there, and I learned some details about his life I had not know before.

“Finally, I do look on the internet, but I use the internet sparingly. I find I learn much, much more from reading books.”

Schaeffer told Cunniff Kids News that she is considering writing next about Jane Addams, but is always looking for ideas: “Are there any historical characters you all would like to learn more about? I would welcome your suggestions!”

(To learn more about Joan Schaeffer and Historical Perspectives for Children and to contact her, go to

–Feb. 5, 2008–