Today in education we hear a lot of talk about having flat classrooms. Who would have guessed that Jeff Brown would have perfected this concept in 1964 when he wrote the original Flat Stanley book? In recent years, Flat Stanley has taken on new life and is having new world-wide adventures. Check out some of his adventures at http://www.flatstanleybooks.com/. If you have reluctant readers, I haven’t met a child who didn’t love Flat Stanley. In fact, it’s even my dad’s favorite book!
Classically, classrooms do Flat Stanley projects, where students create a Flat Stanley to send to other people or classrooms around the world. They mail these Stanley’s and then wait… and wait… and wait. Last year, I “modernized” my version of the Flat Stanley project with the help of my Facebook and Twitter friends. Here’s a look at what we did.
1. Students made their own Flat Stanleys. This part, in my opinion, is essential because it personalizes the learning.
2. We developed a Google Form of questions that we wanted answered from our recipients. HERE is what we asked and how it looked. The students generated the questions based on their interest, but we also used data that we could plot later in a math data project.
3. I contacted friends, family members, and PLN members, asking them to participate in our project. I collected their information on another Google Form. This allowed me to gather the information easily and to create a “waiting list.”
4. We sent out our Flat Stanley’s to our first 22 participants, and we put our form link on the back of each Stanley. We asked that classrooms email us a photo of them with Stanley and fill out the information. We then asked those classes to pass along Stanley to someone that they knew.
5. Within a week, we have multiple responses and photos, and our Google form was filling up. We used Google Earth to find the places where Stanley visited. We even set up Skype calls with some of the classes to ask them more questions.
The kids had a great time collecting and aggregating information with digital tools, and our Stanley’s traveled around the world. It was so exciting to watch my students get “into” the learning that we were doing. It gave us authentic information to use for our data collection and presentation unit. It allowed us to learn geography with a real purpose. It most definitely expanded our world view. No matter how old your students are, projects like Flat Stanley are valuable learning experiences. They are also a great opportunity to take “old school” activities that have always had great value and to “flatten” them to meet the changing view of learning today.