A world traveler recently made a surprise visit to Catherine Cowart's second-grade class.
Flat Stanley, a fictional cutout character who was squashed flat by a bulletin board in Jeff Brown's 1964 children's book, returned Feb. 23 from a trip of visiting soldiers in Baghdad, Iraq.
"Flat Stanley is very famous," Cowart said of the paper cutouts that have traveled the world as part of the Flat Stanley Project, which is observed by many schools nationwide. "He has his own Web site and everything now. He's been to space with the astronauts. He's been to the White House. He went last year to the Academy Awards with Clint Eastwood."
Cowart said the entire second grade at North Columbia Elementary School read the book and sent their Flat Stanley to someone who would track Flat Stanley's activities and then mail him back. The project encourages the pupils to write letters, Cowart said.
Although most of Cowart's pupils mailed their Flat Stanley to friends or relatives inside the country, Nigel Shanks, 8, mailed his across the Atlantic Ocean to his uncle, U.S. Army Capt. Charles Brickhouse, who is currently deployed in Baghdad.
"My mom told me (Brickhouse) was in Iraq, so we wanted to send it," Nigel said.
Nigel had no idea that a few weeks later, Brickhouse, of Winfield, would make a surprise visit to the class to personally return Flat Stanley.
"He was so excited because he saw me," Nigel said of Flat Stanley when he met his uncle at the school office Feb. 23.
Brickhouse said he brought Flat Stanley and a photo book of his adventures to the class to personally make sure the paper man made the long trip back safely.
"We had fun, Stanley and I," Brickhouse said, adding that the photo book documented Flat Stanley's numerous friends in addition to his trips to the gym, to chapel and to brush his teeth. "He took pictures with everybody from soldiers from Australia, Great Britain, the Fiji Islands. Flat Stanley has friends in the Air Force, the Marines and the Army, naturally."
Brickhouse returned Flat Stanley while visiting home during his two-week leave.
In another case, one pupil also mailed his cutout to his father, currently serving the military in Germany.
Cowart said her pupils and the other second-grade classes will make a display of all the returned Flat Stanleys and their photos.
"They have been all over the world," Cowart said of the cutouts.
Her previous pupils have sent them to such exotic places as Aruba and Australia.
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