It's been a long and interesting adventure. In 1994, I was teaching grade 6 and decided to switch to grade 3. I wanted to find a way to encourage my students to engage in literacy and knew that the best way to do this was to offer them authentic and meaningful opportunities. At the same time, I was the teacher on staff who looked after the computer network at my school. It was a newly built school with over 800 students, but only one computer that would go online, and that was with my personal email account on a dial-up modem.
The Home & School was paying $35 a month for a dedicated phone line and they wanted something to show for their investment. The Internet was in its infancy, and there wasn't much in the way of kid-friendly material available, so I decided to come up with something on my own.
I'd come across a vague reference to “Flat Stanley” and for some reason it resonated with me. The book was almost out of print and I had to special order it. When it arrived, I realized that the part where Stanley visited his friend in California by travelling in an envelope could be the hook I was looking for to engage my new students. I persuaded one of my former grade 6 students, Daryl Hunt, to teach me some HTML and the original Flat Stanley Project was born.
It was a big hit with my students, and by the end of the first year the List of Participants had 6 classes from Canada and 7 from the USA. During the summer, people kept contacting me asking to be put on the list for next year and the numbers eventually rose to the hundreds. I had to hand-code each person's name, address, email address into the List of Participants and manually sort it and send a reply confirming they'd been added. It would take about ten minutes per new applicant and once this got into the hundreds it became quite a drain on my time.
A few years later, Jeff Brown, the author of the original Flat Stanley book, contacted me because he'd noticed a huge resurgence of interest in his book. To show his appreciation, Jeff came to my school as a guest author and invited me to visit him and his family in Connecticut for a couple of weeks. Jeff credited me with helping him become a million-selling author. We remained very good friends until his death.