UNION — The students of Sheila Bates’ first grade class at Foster Park Elementary School have traveled to Alaska and New York City and to Australia and the Great Wall of China without leaving Union County and they did it by mail.
Stanley Lambchop is the main character in a series of children’s books initially written by Jeff Brown — and since his death in 2003, continued by other authors — about a boy who is flattened when a large bulletin board falls on him. He survives this and finds that, among other things, his new condition enables him to visit his friends by being mailed to them in an envelope.
The adventures of “Flat Stanley” as Stanley’s came to be known, inspired Dale Hubert, a third grade teacher in London, Ontario, Canada, to initiate “The Flat Stanley Project” in 1995. The project involves students getting acquainted with the character of Flat Stanley by reading the books and then creating paper representations of him and a travel journal for chronicling the places he travels to. They then mail their Flat Stanleys and journals to people in other parts of their country and the world, asking them to treat the figure as a guest, photograph it and write about the places they take it in the journal and then mail it back to them.
In 2005, more than 6,500 classes in 48 countries took part in The Flat Stanley Project.
The ranks of those taking part in The Flat Stanley Project now includes the 21 students of Sheila Bates’ first grade class at FPES.
“We did a ‘Flat Stanley’ project where I sent ‘flat’ versions of my students to people around the country and to a few around the world,” Bates said Tuesday morning. “The host family then takes the flat kids and takes pictures of them with local landmarks and sends them back. They also fill out a travel journal for the kids to describe the locations their flat versions visited. Some of them even send back souvenirs such as t-shirts, pencils, postcards, and brochures about their communities.”
Most of the flat versions of the students were sent to hosts in more than a dozen states including Alaska, Massachusetts, Texas and New York. The destinations of those who were sent overseas included England, France, Australia, Japan and China. The host of a flat version that was sent to China took a photo of the figure with the Great Wall of China in the background. The host of a flat version that was sent to New York, took the figure to several locations in New York City including a wax museum where it was photographed in the hand of a wax figure of singer, songwriter, and actress Alicia Keys.
One of the hosts was Michael Freeman, a friend of Bates and an official with Auburn University’s Environmental Management department. Freeman was mailed the “Flat B.J.” version of B.J. Jeter and photographed the figure at various locations around the university as well as at the Gulf of Mexico and his hometown of Easley.
While hosts usually send their photos back through the mail, Freeman brought his photos to Bates’ class Tuesday morning and presented them as a slide show to the students. During his presentation, Freeman told the students about Auburn University and the different campus landmarks Flat B.J. was photographed with. He also showed photos of rivers and other water systems and talked to them about the importance of water conservation.
Bates said that Freeman’s presentation not only fit in with the class’ Flat Stanley Project, but also with lessons the students have been learning about water. She said Freeman makes similar presentations on water conservation and related issues to elementary classes in the Auburn area as part of a university outreach program to local schools.
In addition to bringing his photos of Flat B.J. at Auburn and elsewhere with him, Freeman also brought the figure back himself, though with a change of wardrobe. Freeman told the class that since Flat B.J. spent so much time at the university, he is now considered an Auburn fan and so he made him an Auburn shirt which the figure wore to class Tuesday morning.
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