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Cultural lessons: Flat Stanleys’ adventures teach students

May 1, 2013

Second-grade students in Diane Sammons' class at Wapakoneta Elementary School point out the places their Flat Stanleys visited. Evan Varvel's Flat Stanley visited Germany, which wasn't on the map. He came back wearing a traditional German outfit. Alexis Torivio and Nathan Schneider both sent their Flat Stanleys to visit relatives in California, and Amelia Bailey's Flat Stanley traveled to Florida to visit her grandma and grandpa.

Gummy bears and Euro coins came back with one Flat Stanley after a trip to Germany.

Instead of returning with tourist photos, this Flat Stanley brought a PowerPoint of all the places he visited to share with the class. He also was dressed in a handmade traditional German outfit.

Other Flat Stanleys sent out by second-graders in Diane Sammons’ class at Wapakoneta Elementary School visited California, Florida, and other states, as well as cities throughout Ohio.

Second-grade teachers at the school have been doing the project for more than five years, with students writing their letters in February, and then sending them to someone they know anywhere in the United States or throughout the world.

While visiting, the Flat Stanleys go on whatever adventures they can and then are returned to the class to learn about where they went through letters, pictures and often momentos.

When the students send their Flat Stanleys, they ask about weather and landforms where they are visiting, so when they are returned, students learn more about what a specific place may be like. They also learn map skills in looking up where the Flat Stanleys traveled.

“A lot of times they dress them like people would be dressed there,” Sammons said of cultural lessons students also are learning through the project. “A lot of times they also send little things from the place he went to, shells from Florida or shark teeth.

“We always get them back from a wide variety of places,” she said.

Alexis Torivio said her Flat Stanley came back from visiting her aunt, uncle and cousins in California with hats.

“It’s awesome,” Alexis said of the project. “It teaches us where different places are.”

Nathan Schneider’s Flat Stanley got his picture taken with the Hollywood sign and in front of the Pacific Ocean when he visited an aunt in California. It was exciting to Nathan, because it is somewhere he has never been.

Even though Amelia Bailey has visited her grandparents in Florida, it was still nice to be reminded of the southern state when Flat Stanley came back from a visit with her grandparents.

Flat Stanley began as a children’s book written in 1964 about a boy who is flattened by a bulletin board and uses his new shape to be mailed in an envelope to visit friends. Several additional books have since been added to the series about his adventures all over the world.

The Flat Stanley project began with a third-grade teacher in Canada, who wanted to encourage letter writing in his students in 1995. Since then, thousands of students in more than 48 countries have participated in the project.

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