First grade students at Schaller Crestland have an interesting way of learning about geography - by each sending out small paper "Stanleys" and learning from places the character is sent to visit. At the end of the four-month journey spent with "caregivers", the Stanleys are to be returned to the students and the places visited are marked on a world map. The map is usually full as the stories are shared. The students have such fun learning where their own Stanleys and their classmates' Stanleys have traveled.
This is the third year that teacher Robin Parkhurst has had her students participate in the project.
The Stanleys are based on a book by Jeff Brown entitled "Flat Stanley." In the book, Stanley Lambchop is squashed flat by a falling bulletin board. When he wants to visit friends in California, his parents fold him up and mail him.
"In our Flat Stanley project, we send out paper Flat Stanleys all over the world," Parkhurst commented. "We are excited to discover the fun that Flat Stanley is experiencing and the places he has visited. We also hope to learn about how people are the same and how they are different."
The students select who they want to send their own Stanleys to and the caregivers are encouraged to write about places visited and even take photos to share with the class.
Parkhurst shared that in the past, the Stanleys have visited four continents. Many of the caregivers go all out with the paper cutouts, which makes the project fun for them, as well.
Souvenirs are often sent back to the students. In the past, banana chips, coconut juice, candies and books from New York and even Iraqi money have been sent to share.
Some caregivers have even sent emails to the classroom during the adventure, even if it's just to say hello!
The Flat Stanley book is a good introduction of the chapter book to the young readers, Parkhurst added. She reads the book in class to the students and it seems after that, the students often want to continue learning to read the longer books.
Besides the geography lesson and the reading lesson, students also learn how to master writing thank yous. Once the Flat Stanleys are returned, they each write a thank you note to the caregivers.
The project will continue each year because, as Mrs. Parkhurst said, "It has become 'expected'" of the students about to enter first grade.
The students will share their new Stanley adventures with the Pilot Tribune.