East Rockingham Elementary rising fourth grader Meredith Gerald didn’t get to take her European vacation yet, but still managed to broaden her horizons and experience Great Britain through a friend named Stanley.
East Rockingham third grade teacher Jennifer Edwards assigned last year’s class an end-of-year project to create a paper cut-out of a person named “Flat Stanley,” and exchange him with someone who lives in another place.
“A lot of kids here don’t have the experience of being anywhere but Richmond County, and I just feel like they’re missing out on a lot that’s out there,” Edwards explained the purpose the assignment. “This is meant to let them know that there are other things out there, and especially the differences in cultures. Everywhere isn’t like Rockingham.”
Gerald took the assignment and ran with it. She knew exactly where her “Flat Stanley” would visit.
“I sent him to stay with my Uncle Terry, because he lives in England and I’d really like to go there,” she explained Friday morning after Stanley’s safe return to Richmond County.
The “Flat Stanley” project began in 1994 with a third grade teacher in Ontario who assigned it to his students, and later encouraged other teachers to adopt it.
The project has several blogs where participants can create a free account and share their Stanley’s experiences via the worldwide web.
Terry Lloyd, Gerald’s uncle, only met his American kin in 2002, when he met his father, who is from Richmond County, and Lloyd’s wife Sandra explained they treated Stanley like an American cousin during his month’s stay across the pond.
“Luckily enough, he arrived the day before we were about to go holiday in Wiltshire, so he got to take that trip with us and see the countryside,” Sandra explained during a Friday morning phone interview. “We took him with us to Wiltshire to see the white horse (hill figure) that is on top of a mountain there, and he went with us to see Stonehenge. My daughter actually took him to London with her, so he got to see the city and travel on the London buses and the London underground. He came everywhere we went with us!”
Upon Stanley’s return to the States, he was in a scrapbook that also included mementos of his travels, even down to a street map that demonstrated the route he traveled to see the popular sites of the British Isle.
“I would like for Meredith to take away the fact that Britain is a really nice place and it has a lot of heritage that just doesn’t exist where she’s from,” Sandra explained. “It’s a pity we didn’t have Stanley a little longer so we could share more with her!”
Included in Stanley’s scrapbook was a letter from him to Meredith.
“I have had a great time with Uncle Terry and Aunt Sandra visiting all these great places like Wookey Hole, the Wiltshire white horse, Stonehenge and, of course, London, and I must not forget the Port of Felixstowe,” the letter read. “It’s been a great summer, but I think it’s time to go back to Cordova, North Carolina and see everybody back home.”
For now, Gerald’s international escapades are coming vicariously through “Flat Stanley,” but the experience has definitely wet her appetite to learn of other places.
“I want to do another Stanley,” she explained at her grandmother’s kitchen table Friday morning. “Next I’m going to send him to stay with my great uncle in [Ohio].”
“I really wanted the kids to get a sense of this being the melting pot of cultures, and be able to understand different cultures and why things are done a certain way in different places. For instance, Meredith had a classmate who moved here from Canada this year, and even the way they do things there is different from here. It’s good for them to be exposed to those differences.”
“This has definitely helped her,” Grandmother Anna Gordon explained. “It’s helped her in her reading. It helps her to learn about another culture, because there’s so much that is different from ours. It’s opened up all kinds of avenues.”
Edwards explained Gerald is the first in her class to contact her to let her know her “Flat Stanley” returned home, but she’s interested to see how her other students’ trips went as well.
“There was one classmate who sent her’s to Florida, and most sent there’s to another state,” Edwards explained. “It was kind of unique that Meredith’s got to travel to Europe, though.”
S0taff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 15, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.