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Four Years at the Mount

Sophomore year

Being Flat

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

(6/2014) It’s finally summer time! The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and people are cheerfully discussing their plans for this exciting time of year. Throughout conversation it seems that one word gets thrown around the most. That one word is vacation, and it is a signal of hope for rest and relaxation. Yet, with tight budgets and outrageous prices on hotels, travel, and activities, how can anyone go on vacation without it costing an arm and a leg? Well it may seem extreme and unrealistic, but instead of paying for an airplane or train ticket, you could just mail yourself. It would be much easier, of course, if you were flat.

In elementary schools throughout the nation and even in other countries, there is one classmate who has been to more places than anyone else. He is extremely popular and his peers thoroughly enjoy sharing their adventures with him. He is four feet tall, roughly a foot wide, and only half an inch thick. His name is Stanley, and he has that desired feature of being flat.

How did he get this way? Well, the popular children’s book explains that while he was sleeping one night a large bulletin board that his parents had gotten for him and his brother for Christmas fell on top of him. When his parents removed the board, they found Stanley had become completely flat. His mother quickly took him to the doctor’s office, but the doctor assured Stanley’s mother, Mrs. Lambchop, that Stanley was perfectly healthy and would be completely fine. Stanley did not mind being flat. It allowed him to do awesome things like sneak into a locked room through the crack under the door, fly as if he were a kite, and avoid a majority of the raindrops when caught in a downpour. However, one of the most notable things that Stanley was able to do was visit his friend in California.

Thomas Anthony Jeffery is a good friend of Stanley’s. His family had recently moved to California, and Stanley missed him very much. After receiving a letter from Thomas, Stanley came up with the idea to mail himself to go visit him instead of having to pay for air or train fare. Stanley’s father, Mr. Lambchop, brought an enormous envelope home with him from work one day, and Stanley got into it. It fit him well and there was even enough extra space for a sandwich his mother made for him. After placing a lot of stamps onto Stanley’s envelope, his parents dropped Stanley into a mailbox around the corner from their house. He arrived at his friend’s house without any difficulties, and when it was time for him to go home, Thomas’ family made Stanley a special envelope and even mailed him first class!

The popularity of the short novels about Stanley and his adventures began almost 20 years ago, and it continues today. The author, Jeff Brown, challenged his readers to send Flat Stanley on a new adventure. There are templates online where you can print out your own Flat Stanley and color him in, or you could draw him to the best of your ability. Jeff Brown encourages his readers to keep a notebook and record the adventures that the reader takes his or her own Flat Stanley on. Then, when the reader is ready, he or she should send the journal and Flat Stanley to one of his or her friends so that Stanley’s adventures can continue on and on. Teachers have picked up on this project and modified it a little. After reading the novel as a class, the teacher informs the class that each student will be able to spend a week with Flat Stanley and document the activities and adventures that the student and Stanley go on. This usually includes writing a few paragraphs or doing an activity while taking pictures of Stanley at a certain place. The journal and Flat Stanley are then passed on to another student in the class and so on. By the end of the year, Stanley has been on many awesome adventures and has spent time with each student in the class. Even if students feel as if they are very different from their peers, they have Stanley as a commonality among themselves.

This project has become a huge hit. Students love having Flat Stanley and sharing his adventures with other students. He has been almost everywhere and done almost everything. There have been pictures of Flat Stanley in airplanes, in different countries, and even with world leaders such as President Obama. Flat Stanley’s explorations are endless, and each student brings a new and exciting activity to Stanley and to the class. A neat addition is to include a map in the notebook to track all of the places that Stanley travels to during the school year. This project teaches students so many different skills needed for school and life in a fun and creative way.

Now, I understand that while this may sound like a good idea for elementary students, it doesn’t exactly sound like something you might be interested in doing. However, I challenge you to keep your own adventure notebook this summer. Whether you make a Flat Stanley and have him join in on the action or not is up to you. Writing down your explorations, activities, and enjoyments makes for tangible memories that can be passed on to loved ones, who can then share their experiences as well. We are only human, and we tend to forget moments even when they mean a lot to us at the time. Writing them down preserves them and allows for the adventure to continue even many years from now. While you may not be able to become flat yourself, you can instead keep something that is flat and give it value and an entirely new meaning by documenting the places you go and the people you meet.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen