During your younger years, you may or may not have read a children’s book called ‘Flat Stanley’. If you didn’t, I’ll catch you up: Stanley Lambchop was flattened after a billboard he hung over his bed fell on him during the night (life lesson: don’t hang things over your bed – anyone who has experienced the sheer terror when a poster on your wall falls on top of you in the middle of the night will agree with me here), and made the most of his altered state by being mailed to his friends.
In 1994, a man called Dale Hubert, in Ontario, Canada, came up with the idea of having children create their own Flat Stanley cut-outs, and mail them to friends or family around the globe “in order to foster authentic literacy activities for kids and get them excited to write about Stanley’s adventures.’’ Fast forward to today and the project is used in over 6000 schools in 88 countries around the world. Children design their own Flat Stanley either on paper, or via the digital Flat Stanley app, and mail him off to someone in another part of the world, whether it be a far away friend or family member, or another school registered with The Flat Stanley Project. When Flat Stanley returns to the child (with a description or pictures of his time away), the children write about his adventures.
Just over a month ago, one of my best friends, who lives in Canada, asked if I would do a Flat Stanley project with her nine year old cousin. After googling to figure out what on earth it was, I said sure, that sounds like fun! And it really, really was. All my friends and family got involved and we had several fun days taking a little paper Flat Stanley to all the different tourist spots in London. Before this, I had never heard of The Flat Stanley Project, and I was pretty surprised by just how many people recognised what I was doing as I wandered around London with a paper doll like a five year old, demanding my friends take pictures of me holding him up against the gates of Buckingham Palace. A couple from San Francisco were very excited to see us doing a Flat Stanley Project, and asked to take a picture to send to their friend in New York, who they had done their own Flat Stanley Project with. When I took Stanley to get his picture taken at Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross the ‘Hogwarts train officer’ told me he’d done this a million times.
The Flat Stanley Project states that “kids are inspired to write of their own passion and excitement about the project, and given the freedom to write about many things through the rubric of the Flat Stanley character.” But as well as that, children get to see another part of the world in a very personal way. They get to develop their knowledge on geography and explore their creativity. And the people who get to take Flat Stanley around their home city or town get to have a hell of a lot of fun. If you ever get the chance to take part in the Flat Stanley Project, I highly recommend it.