LatinaLista — Since 1994, a plain-faced, brightly-colored cut-out of a young boy named Stanley has been the global ambassador for children’s literacy and friendship. Now, Flat Stanley, as he’s more popularly known, has a web site, a mobile app and a Facebook page and is breaking borders and language barriers among children worldwide.
If you’re old enough, Flat Stanley may sound familiar. He was the subject of books written in the 1960s.
The premise of the story was that Stanley Lambchop and his younger brother Arthur were given a big bulletin board by their father for displaying pictures and posters. The dad hung the bulletin board on the wall over Stanley’s bed. During the night, the board fell from the wall, flattening Stanley in his sleep. Stanley survived but had to get used to life as a flat Stanley. It doesn’t take him long to realize how much fun it is to enter locked rooms by sliding under doors or flying in the sky as a kite. Yet, the best part of being flat was that he could visit friends in far-off places by being mailed in an envelope.
It was that aspect of the story that inspired a Canadian school teacher named Dale Hubert to create the Flat Stanley Project about 18 years ago. Back then, it was all about the old-fashioned way of communicating — letter writing. Some have even referred to it as the very first social network for teachers and students.
Today, it’s about strengthening that network and taking it to the next level — via technology.
Currently in beta format, the Flat Stanley Project web site invites children or classrooms of children to register to become part of the project. The children can print out and color their own flat characters (there’s a variety to select from) and then choose from a global list of where to send their character on an adventure that is the ultimate learning experience for the kids.
Either mail him, or email him, with our Flat Stanley App, off on his or her journey. All sorts of good teaching activities can be involved at this stage: geography, with locations of Stanley’s travels and destinations; math, in distances and times; narrative and writing, with journal entries and biographies, and on and on. Track Stanley’s journey as he makes his way to your chosen destination. And then wait with bated breath for acknowledgement of his arrival from your exchange partner classroom or friends!
From the online map at the site pinpointing those cities that have fellow Flat Stanley lovers, the children can send their cut-outs to cities on any one of the world’s continents.
Yet, the most fun, aside from getting to know new people in new places, is the pictures. Everyone is encouraged to take a picture of their flat character in their location and post it online. With the new free mobile app, a picture of the flat character can be digitally included on any photo.
The site is totally monitored by adults who review every picture before allowing anything to be posted and registrations to keep the site as safe as possible. Yet, the creators of the site know every web site is a work in progress.
According to Flat Stanley Project founder, Dale Hubert, there are major changes in store for the current web site in March. Online journals, the ability for classes to connect with one another in a safe virtual environment and the opportunity to create a Stanley image from the mobile app will all be new additions on the site.
In this day and age of technology and cyber-connections, the Flat Stanley Project mixes the right amount of new technology with old-fashioned excitement about learning — and not just with young people.