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When 8-year-old Alia Paige sent a letter to her cousin as part of a school project, she expected the enclosed cutout of a children's book character she sent might make its way around the Washington, D.C., area.
But the Eagle Point Elementary second grader's cutout of Stanley, the title character of Flat Stanley who was flattened by a falling bulletin board and mails himself to friends and family worldwide, was sent to Afghanistan. There Alia's Stanley cutout was photographed with her uncle, Air Force Capt. Rob Leese, and elsewhere before evidence of his escapades were sent back to Rossford.
"It has a lot of helicopters," Alia said of Afghanistan.
For the past few years, students in Angela Maxwell's second grade class have done the Stanley project to learn about geography and how to write letters. Each student wrote a letter and enclosed a personally crafted Stanley cutout, which they sent to someone who was to keep it for a few days and record the ensuing adventures.
Many students received e-mailed photos along with an explanation of what their Stanleys did, Mrs. Maxwell said.
"With technology now, we've gotten a lot more of our Flat Stanley photos back," said Mrs. Maxwell, who has posted a world map and Stanley-related letters and photos in her classroom.
Many of the photos featuring sites, people, and pets are from throughout the United States. Some people sent back small souvenirs with their letters explaining what Stanley did, and students will be able to keep their mementos after the project is complete.
Hunter Hitchens, 8, sent his letter and Stanley cutout to California to the cousin of his grandfather, Lou Soltis of Rossford. Hunter's Stanley made it to Muir Woods, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Oroville Dam.
The United States has a large variety of sites "visited" by the Stanleys he and his classmates made, Hunter said.
"Every single one of them was different," said Hunter, motioning to the display on his classroom's wall. "That's what made it cool."
The class also sent a Stanley to Anna Romaniak, the educator from Stalowa Wola, Poland, who visited Eagle Point last year as part of an exchange program. Another was sent to Switzerland, where Eagle Point fifth grade teacher Jennifer Muck's sister lives.
Luka Klotz, 8, quickly recalled that Swiss students learn to ski in kindergarten. They also are in school every day for two fewer hours than Rossford students, said Luka, who sent his letter to his older brother's girlfriend in Orlando, Fla.
Swiss students, Luka said, also have unusual tastes. They enjoy microwaving cheese and chocolate with bread crumbs, he said.
"They think it's good, but I think it sounds really gross," Luka said.