Presbyterian College junior Julianna Franklin, the current president of the PC Spanish Club, and PC alumnus Patrick Kennedy ’13, a Peace Corps volunteer, spearheaded an intercultural
experience between Kennedy’s class in Guatemala and the Spanish Club. Together, they pulled off the Flat Stanley Project, which is based on a children’s book by author Jeff Brown. In the book, a little boy gets pressed flat by a bulletin board and uses his flatness to go on adventures through the mail system. In the same way, the Guatemalan and PC students used their own Flat Stanleys to learn about each other’s cultures.
The idea for the project came from discussions between Kennedy and his friends back home, and with people volunteering with him in Guatemala. Kennedy realized that Americans know very little about Guatemalan life and culture. He joked, “I think some people had the impression that I was living in a jungle hut in the Amazon.” Meanwhile, in Guatemala, the Guatemalans know a lot about America’s news and pop culture, but also tend to think that everyone in the U.S. lives like a celebrity or character in a movie. Therefore, as Kennedy said, “the project was designed to give people from both countries a better understanding of each other’s daily lives.”
In Guatemala, Kennedy’s students, who range in ages from 11-15 years old, colored paper dolls in traditional Guatemalan garb – the country has a rich textile tradition and each town has a unique pattern for their clothing. The children also wrote details about themselves on the back of the dolls, including their name, ages, and interests. Some even wrote their information in English, so as to practice their English language skills.
Kennedy then scanned the dolls and emailed them to Franklin, who printed and distributed the dolls to members of the Spanish Club. The PC students carried the dolls with them and took photos of their Flat Stanley’s adventures for a week. “The result was fantastic,” said Franklin. “Some of the Flat ‘Stanleys,’ (some were actually girls), went to the zoo, to tennis and lacrosse matches, to class, home, and work.” Through the photos, the Guatemalan students will now get to see aspects of students’ everyday lives as well as the cultural differences.
The original world-wide Flat Stanley Project was started in 1995. PC sophomore student and Spanish Club member Caleb McGill remembers doing Flat Stanley when he was in second grade. He said, “This was a great throwback for me. I love the fact that we’re connecting with people thousands of miles away that we’ve never met before.”
“Overall, we had a great time with this project and hope that the kids enjoyed it as much as we have,” said Franklin.
The Spanish Club, in addition to allowing students to explore and learn more about Spanish culture and traditions, is committed to expanding awareness and appreciation for Spanish culture on campus and supporting the local Hispanic community. In addition to the Flat Stanley Project, the members of the club have participated in several other events throughout the academic year.
“This year, Spanish Club members have given freely of their time and energy in projects geared towards enhancing the lives of children. They organized face painting at the Thornwell Home for Children for Halloween and ran a bubble booth at the PC Special Olympics this spring,” said Dr. Sharon Knight, PC associate professor of Spanish and adviser to the Spanish Club. “The Flat Stanley project shared glimpses of students’ lives with children in Guatemala. In addition to brightening a child’s day, these types of projects give PC students an opportunity to serve as role models for a younger generation.”
For more information contact Dr. Knight at email@example.com.