Saint Augustine famously said, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” One Pennsylvania Kiwanis club helped a teacher discover a new creative way to deliver geography lessons that took those famous words to heart.
The Sheraden, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Kiwanis Club stumbled on an easy way to bring smiles to children’s faces, thanks to the imagination of the son of two members.
“Brandon wanted to have his kids participate and experience life outside of Charlotte, but was concerned due to the high poverty level of his students that the participation might not be 100%,” explains past club President Debbie Whitfield.
Inspired by the 1964 children’s book “Flat Stanley” about a boy named Stanley Lampchop who is flattened in his sleep by the bulletin board hanging over his bed, the Kiwanis club helped him to create a cost-effective way for the elementary students to do some sightseeing in another city. Stanley’s altered state allows him to have many adventures, often by folding himself up in an envelope and mailing himself to his friends.
The book served as a way to teach math, geography and reading comprehension. But then the lesson took on a life of its own. Having moved to North Carolina from the state of Pennsylvania, he gave his kids a simple scenario. “I missed home, and I wanted them to meet my family and friends,” says Brandon Whitfield.
His students drew themselves on cardstock, creating a “flat person” through which to experience Pennsylvania. Before their look-alikes began their journey, the students found Pittsburgh on a map and talked about what they thought it was like. When the students’ letters of introduction and flat people arrived, the club members showed them around over the course of two weeks.
The club really embraced the project. “My flat Elijah went to work with me at the University of Pittsburgh, got his teeth cleaned at the dental school, went to the children’s museum, on the incline, sled riding with my grandkids, and even met the mayor of Pittsburgh,” Debbie Whitfield shares. “Our members compiled scrap books, letters and some assorted small gifts. One of them went to Hershey so she sent bags of Hershey kisses.”
“The students loved it and to see them smile when they got their letters was awesome!” reflects Brandon Whitfield.
The experience taught the students many things, but the Kiwanians benefited, too. “I think the project was great for everyone,” Debbie Whitfield says. “It gave the kids some insight into areas outside of their communities, and it gave us the opportunity to see our lives through the eyes of a child! The only limitation to what you can do is your own imagination.” — Courtney Meyer
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