3rd-graders send 'twins' to visit faraway kin Life-size cutouts return with souvenirs, stories

November 22, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.

Twenty-three third-graders in Becky Lamb's class at Jacobsville Elementary School in Pasadena found a way to answer that postcard wish. Sort of.

The youngsters created life-size paper "twins" of themselves and mailed them to relatives around the country, who returned the paper cutouts to the children with souvenirs of their stays in various states.

The father of one girl returned her twin with a lei and a grass skirt from his naval base in Hawaii. An aunt in Maine took her nephew's twin to the school where she teaches.

And a New Jersey grandfather took his grandson's twin golfing and sent pictures to prove it.

"It's been overwhelming," Lamb said of the response. "The kids are so excited when the secretary calls and tells us that another one came back."

The idea for the two-month project came from Judy Schmid, the school's physical education teacher, who read that students in a Kansas elementary school had mailed paper twins to their relatives after they finished reading "Flat Stanley," by Jeff Brown.

The 19-page story describes the life of a boy named Stanley who is accidentally flattened by a bulletin board one morning. Stanley's unique shape allows him to slide through a sewer grate to retrieve his mother's wedding ring. And he makes a fine kite for his younger brother.

The story ends as Stanley's younger brother uses a tire pump to restore his original shape because Stanley has grown tired of being flat.

Lamb decided to try the cutouts this year. The children in her class traced each other on white butcher paper, then cut out and painted their shapes.

At first, the students tried to take their twins along on their mandatory physical fitness tests. The mile run wasn't a problem: The students folded the cutouts into envelopes to carry along. Sit-ups and pull-ups were another matter.

"They thought that [the twins] could reach the wall, but they started to tear because they don't have any muscles to stretch," Lamb recalled. "So we talked about muscles and other things."

The students sent their twins to relatives, attaching letters about the project. About half of the cutouts have been returned to them.

tTC Ashley DiFabio sent her twin to her father, David, who repairs computers for the Navy in Hawaii. In a letter to his daughter and her classmates, DiFabio wrote that he and the cutout went dancing, rode on a boat and repaired a computer.

"We fixed the part, saved the country millions of dollars and kept us all safe from the tyrants of the world," he wrote.

Justin Miller's grandfather played golf with Justin's twin in New Jersey.

The result? "My flat twin beat him," Justin said. "He beat him by one stroke."

The teachers also made twins. Lamb mailed hers to her sister-in-law in Washington, Schmid sent her cutout to a former college professor in South Carolina, and art teacher Lori Ganzermiller mailed her twin to her nephew in Georgia.

Justin Houaker's aunt in Maine took the cutout to her school, where he participated in band practice.

Nicholas Lazzaro's uncle and his nephew's twin rode a firetruck through a town in Missouri.

Ricardo Gibson sent his cutout to his grandparents in Texas, where the twin cast his ballot in the 1996 presidential race.

"I voted for Bill Clinton," Ricardo said, "because he's the only president I know."

The class is still waiting for every twin to be returned and have not given up hope of being reunited.

"My partner traced me, and I felt like it was made out of me," Justin said.

Pub Date: 11/22/96

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