Flat Stanley adds new dimension to learning

One week from today, 215 elementary school students from the Lansdowne area will among those packing into the Hippodrome Theatre in downtown Baltimore to watch "The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley."

The show, presented free to 120 students from Baltimore Highlands Elementary, 95 from Riverview Elementary and students from a host of other schools in the metro area, will mark the end of a two-month education project sponsored by the PNC Foundation, the Hippodrome Foundation and Southwest Airlines.


"They're really excited about it," said Mary Meehan, a second-grade teacher at Baltimore Highlands.

The Flat Stanley Project began in 1994 in Ontario, Canada, using the book written in 1964 by Jeff Brown.

Teachers use the cut-out Stanley, which is usually a drawing on paper that their students have decorated with their own style, as a way to teach dimensions, geography, art and other subjects.

In the nine classes at Riverview and Baltimore Highlands, teachers are using Stanley to teach students about the world beyond their corner of Baltimore County.

In March, students began reading the book in class and making their own Flat Stanleys. Once finished, they sent their paper versions to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, where they met Southwest Airlines crew members to travel all over the country.

In the past weeks, students have been receiving updates from Stanley — with the help of Southwest — about his travels.

In Meehan's class, students created a chart to follow Stanley's adventures.

BWI crews have been equally excited to participate, said Karen Price-Ward, community affairs and grassroots regional leader at Southwest Airlines, which has been shuttling 75 Flat Stanleys across the country.

"They've used a lot of creativity with the Flat Stanley program," Ward said, noting pilots and flight attendants have taken their adopted cardboard cutouts to Denver, Aruba and Ohio.

Not only has Olive Waxter, director of the Hippodrome Foundation, been involved in Flat Stanley's recent endeavors in the area. But her own children learned with Flat Stanley while they were growing up. "Without knowing it, the kids are learning," she said.

The two-month program will culminate April 29 with a 10 a.m. showing of Flat Stanley the musical, sponsored by PNC's $350 million Grow up Great program.

In the past, Waxter said, the show has been a hit with the students, many of whom bring their own Flat Stanley cut-outs with them to the theater.