CC McLean takes on Mission Operation Flat Stanley pen pals

GORE BAY—Grade 4/5 teacher Heather Jefkins has, along with her class of 26, taken on Operation Flat Stanley and Operation Troop Support. The class is hard at work, learning about the Canadian Armed Forces this fall.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with it,” Ms. Jefkins told the Expositor last week during a visit to her classroom.

Each student designed a ‘Flat Stanley’ to send off to a pen pal at a Canadian Forces base somewhere in Canada. ‘Somewhere’ could be any one of the fourteen bases from Squamish BC to Goose Bay NL.

The basic principal of the Flat Stanley Project is to connect your child, student or classroom with other children, classrooms or in this case, Canadian Peacekeepers, in the project by sending out ‘flat’ visitors, created by the children, through the mail or digitally. Kids then talk about, track and write about their flat character’s journey and adventures. In this case, it is the soldiers who are writing about their adventures to the children.

Each Stanley is coloured by the student, their name and address written on the back and laminated so that if he becomes lost in his travels, the person who finds him can mail him back to Canada.

A ‘Where is Stanley’ map at the back of the classroom marking the location, base and holding letters received so far.

Some of the students’ pen pals are seamen so their job takes them away for 2 to 4 weeks at a time, which means they may not receive a letter as frequently as one who is based in Ontario.

Bella Jefkins’ pen pal also has roots in Kagwong: Marla Haring who is based in Winnipeg.

One soldier has taken his Stanley for a ride in his armoured truck and another to a hockey game. A fellow soldier taking in the game saw his Stanley, asked how he could take part in the project and has since signed up too.

Ms. Jefkins stated that taking part in the program takes in English, Art, and Social Studies. Having taken part in similar programs since 2006, Ms. Jefkins wanted to ensure the project was a “sure thing” with a commitment that the CFB soldiers would write back to the children.

“It’s cool,” said Jacob Kennedy, who had received a letter the day before from his pen pal Paul Demers of Manitowaning, who is based in Pembroke.

Jacob is among several others in his class who are writing to fellow Islanders. Kyle Greenman’s pen pal is Stephen Barfoot of Nameless Lake based in Ottawa.

“I learn a lot about what they do,” shared Amelia Lewis.

Ms. Jefkins wanted her students to engage with them and to learn what their jobs were in the armed forces to “learn about what soldiers really do in our world to make it a better place.”

Some of the students have more than one Flat Stanley Pen Pal as there are 26 in the class and 33 volunteers are writing to them.

The letters they receive are hand written, some with artwork along the edges and photos attached of their tank, truck, plane or other vehicle they drive or ride in to do their job in the military.

The second project the students are involved in is Operation Troop Support. They have ‘adopted’ the Canadian soldiers working at the UN Mission in Juba, South Sudan. “We are planning to send them Christmas Treat Boxes by the end of November,” stated Ms. Jefkins.

“We are in contact with the Canadian Commander at UNMISS who will provide us with the names of his entire team so they will all receive a Christmas surprise package,” she added. “So far the community support for this project has been excellent with donations from Lyons Memorial United Church, and the Gore Bay branch of BMO who have donated soccer balls and have offered two volunteers to help stuff the boxes with us.”

“A maple leaf will be pressed in the bottom of the box,” stated Ms. Jefkins. They really enjoy receiving something from home and there is nothing more Canadian than our maple leaf.

Before this writer left the classroom, Ms. Jefkins asked her student to share the song they have been practicing for the Remembrance Day service. The kids could not get their music sheets out quickly enough. They were very excited to show off. With the assistance of Jane Best who provided background music on Ms Jefkins laptop: ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth.’ Familiar with the lyrics this reporter was happy to join them and sang along.

Ms. Jefkins’ class was responsible for the Remembrance Day service held on Monday.

Sharon Jackson