BUFFALO — A book and a movie about a boy whose journey aboard a magical train that takes children to the North Pole leads to his being rewarded by Santa Claus for his kindness to others continues to inspire the students of Buffalo Elementary School to give to others.
In 2004, the late Nancy Taylor began leading the kindergarten students at BES in a study of “The Polar Express,” the 2004 film adaptation of the 1985 children’s novel of the same name. The study of the movie and its meaning became an annual event for the school’s 5K class and has continued as a memorial to Taylor’s memory and as an opportunity to inspire all the school’s children to give back to the community.
“It’s a movie about a little boy who doesn’t believe in Santa who gets on the train that takes children up to meet Santa Claus,” Ann Fowler, BES 5K teacher, said this past week. “He is a very unselfish boy, helping his friends throughout their train ride to the North Pole. At the end Santa gives him the first gift of Christmas, a bell from Santa’s sleigh for his being so unselfish.”
Ginger Winters, assistant teacher, said that when the children watch the movie, they are dressed like the children on the train are and are served the same treats.
“We read the book to them and when we watch the movie we place them in a similar setting with them wearing the pajamas and the hot chocolate,” Winters said. “The smart boards in the classroom are perfect for the movie, they make it look like it’s on a movie screen.”
Winters said the purpose of the project is to help the students understand the lesson of the movie and the true meaning of Christmas.
“We inspire the children to believe and give,” Winters said. “We teach them that the true meaning of Christmas is to give rather than receive.”
This has in turn led to the school collecting gifts brought in by the students to give to residents of the Oakmont and Ellen Sagar nursing homes.
Notes are sent home at the beginning of December informing parents about the “Ellen Sagar/Oakmont Express” and providing them with a list of possible presents for the residents of the nursing homes. This year’s list included unscented lotion, Kleenex tissues, large size puzzles, socks for both men and women, playing cards, brushes and combs, body wash, books, magazines, and copies of the Bible.
All the gifts are collected in boxes decorated to look like railroad cars in the hallway near the main office. This year the boxes were placed in front of wall decorations that depicted a fireplace surrounded by stockings and with Santa coming down the chimney to a rather hot surprise.
The gift items were collected through Tuesday and distributed Friday after school was dismissed for Christmas vacation.
Kathy Taylor, assistant principal, said that while The Polar Express story is taught in kindergarten, the students in the school’s upper grades haven’t forgotten the lesson they learned from the class and the movie.
“The young children are especially enthusiastic but some of the older children are just as enthusiastic,” Taylor said. “They remember and they donate too.”