My 8-year old friend, Alissa, invited me to participate in her second grade classroom project. She mailed me a packet with a journal, a cut-out drawing of herself and a letter explaining the project. Her class read a book called Flat Stanley: His Original Adventure! by Jeff Brown.
In the story Stanley is accidentally flattened and has some adventures before returning to normal. In one of his adventures Flat Stanley is mailed to California for a vacation with a friend. Alissa explained that she would like to be Stanley and visit me, but she can’t miss school. So she sent “Flat Alissa” and asked me to take her around my town and show her the sights.
She asked that I write in her journal and include some photos and souvenirs of my trip so that she will know what we did together. She requested I mail back the journal to Minnesota by May 1.
I was thrilled to receive the project because I’m an avid journal writer. I’ve written in journals for 40 years and have created many for my two granddaughters. I was delighted to create one for Alissa.
I also had a trip planned to Seattle, WA so I took “Flat Alissa” with me to show her the sights. I had so much fun explaining the project to my hosts and the people I met while displaying the paper cut-out. I took her on the ferry to Bainbridge Island where they happened to be filming a scene from “Grey’s Anatomy” with Patrick Dempsey. (He waved to us!)
At Pike’s Market, I placed “Flat Alissa” among the vibrant bouquets of tulips and luscious fruit and vegetable displays. But the most amazing coincidence of all was running into another “Flat Stanley” participant on the Seattle Great Wheel, a 175-foot high Ferris wheel on Seattle’s waterfront.
While my friends and I were waiting in line to board our gondola, I noticed the family next to me was carrying a “Flat Stanley” figure. Their niece had sent them her “Flat Abby” from Willow Glen Elementary School in San Jose, CA. We introduced our two “flat” friends and took their photo for our journals. I was fairly certain that Alissa would be the only student in her class to have met another “flat” friend on her journey!
But then I did some research and found that the “Original Flat Stanley Project” has been around since 1995. Dale Hubert, a retired educator from London, Ontario, Canada created the project based on Jeff Brown’s 1964 children’s book when the internet was in its infancy. His project has been referred to as one of the very first social networks and since its humble beginnings, is now familiar to millions of children, parents and teachers around the world.
I encourage you to share this imaginative project with your children and grandchildren. There are many different applications of this story that can be used in a variety of subjects and the creative possibilities are endless.