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A Visit From Flat Stanley



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A Visit From

Flat Stanley

By Shannon Hicks

Newtown residents usually hear about Flat Stanley when he returns to elementary school students after they have sent him off to friends and family across the country and around the world.

The Flat Stanley Project, based on Jeff Brown’s 1964 book Flat Stanley, is something that has been built into a school project embraced by teachers and children everywhere.

Flat Stanley tells the story of Stanley Lambchop, who gets flattened by a bulletin board. He discovers that being flat has some benefits, like being able to slip under doors, being a kite for your little brother, or being mailed to far-off places.

Teachers quickly realized that Flat Stanley was more than a reading lesson. Letter writing, geography, natural science, and even math lessons grew out of the book. In 1995, Dale Hubert, a third grade teacher in London, Ontario, Canada, began the Flat Stanley Project. He invited other teachers to take part by hosting flat visitors and to encourage their students to write their own Flat Stanley journals. The journal and each Flat Stanley are then mailed off to out-of-town friends and relatives, and Stanley’s adventures begin.

Originally, teachers hoped to get letters back that would lead to discussions of different geographical regions. Today, most Flat Stanleys return with letters, photos, books, and other souvenirs sent from the folks visited by Flat Stanley. Postcards and/or e-mails are also usually “sent” by Flat Stanley during his various travels. Many classes have begun documenting their Flat Stanley travels through Mr Hubert’s website (FlatStanley.com).

Sandy Hook School and Wesley Learning Center students have done their own Flat Stanley projects; the Wesley students made paper gingerbread men for their version of the project.

This month one Newtown family has been enjoying a visit from a Florida-based Flat Stanley. Lynn and Dr Joseph Young, along with daughter Chelsea, welcomed “Flattie,” as Dr Young has nicknamed him, to their home when their niece Marianna Price asked if one of her friends, Natalie, could send her Flat Stanley to Newtown.

To commemorate his holiday, Stanley’s adventures were recorded and put into a brochure by Lynn Young. Photos are accompanied by text describing what Stanley was doing or learning (“Many of our houses and churches were built in the 1700s and 1800s. …[Newtown Meeting House] was built in the 1700s, and then rebuilt in the 1800s,” reads the caption set between a pair of Stanley photos. In the upper photo Stanley is in front of Newtown Meeting House, and in the second he is perched atop the building’s National Register of Historic Places plaque.

For most of his visit to New England, Stanley stayed in Newtown. The Youngs introduced Stanley to the topography of Newtown, and helped him compare Newtown’s hilly terrain to Florida’s flat landscape. He went to Newtown Meeting House and Trinity Episcopal Church, which offer examples of Colonial-era architecture.

He also visited Dr Young at work, Village Eye Care in Queen Street Shopping Center. Dr Young gave Stanley an eye exam (which he passed), and took his photo to go up on the wall with all the other photos of the children who are patients of the optometrist.

In addition to taking Stanley around the hometown, the Youngs brought their young charge into Manhattan, where he tried hot dogs (he enjoys his with ketchup), visited Broadway, and event went to the M&M story (“Flat Stanley wanted to stay there forever!”).

Stanley will be returning to Florida this coming weekend. Hopefully he will have only good things to tell Natalie, Marianne, and their classmates about his visit to Newtown.

“You know, it’s always hard when somebody leaves the home after they drop into your life and move in, there’s always a little bit of something missing,” Joseph Young said this week. “I think we can go on, and share Flat Stanley with the rest of the world, however.”

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