Christmas is all about traditions, and River Ridge Elementary School repeated one of its favorite holiday rituals Wednesday.
Pajama-clad first-graders used their imaginations and their classrooms, which had been transformed into scenes from The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg, to visit the North Pole.
"We've done this every year since River Ridge has been open," said first-grade teacher April Pond. "Every year we make it a little bit bigger and better."
The first-grade hall was turned into a train tunnel, and teachers, also wearing pajamas, punched the train tickets of the children as they moved from scene to scene. The travelers heard music and the sound of a chugging train during their journeys through the hall.
One classroom depicted a scene from the little boy's home, where the children made boxes to hold the special gift they would receive from Santa Claus -- but only if they believed, of course. Another classroom became the North Pole, where the believers got their bells.
The first-graders decorated snowflake ornaments in the Winter Wonderland, where the heat had been turned off and the windows were thrown open.
The travelers enjoyed cookies and hot chocolate on the train ride to the North Pole in one classroom. In another, they worked on a train glyph, in which they followed specific instructions to color a train as they "rode" back home.
The teachers read the story to the children before they began their journey, and Pond said the various activities were designed to reinforce reading skills of sequencing and setting. The first-graders watched The Polar Express movie Thursday so they could compare and contrast the film with the book.
"It just helps them to better understand what they've read, and it sticks with them," Pond said.
Sam Hutcherson, 7, worked on his snowflake in the Winter Wonderland.
"I like it. I like doing art projects," he said.
He said the "jingle bell room" was his favorite stop.
"We get to hear the jingle bells and make 'em," said Sam.
Hensley Burke, 7, enjoyed the train ride to the North Pole.
"We're making hot chocolate and making cookies," she said.
Lauren Green, 6, said she liked "making stuff" and hearing the songs.
"And the most important thing I like about the Polar Express is a chocolate cookie," she said, holding her treat up.
Pond said the older pupils like to come back to the first-grade hall to visit the Polar Express, and the kindergartners look forward to the journey.
"On days like (this), everybody wants to be a first-grader," Pond said.
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