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Village students redirect a misdirected package

Sedona Red Rock News of Sedona, Arizona

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Big Park students write letters to soldiers serving overseas

A series of events turned a misdirected package into a fun class project for Big Park Community School fourth-grade students.

"It's weird. I got this package from an online store and thought someone bought me a gift. When I opened it and checked the shipping label it was supposed to go to a U.S. Army Pfc. Bryan Harvey who is serving in Afghanistan. All it had was an APO address," said Curt Ifft, the father of a Big Park student. "I was just going to send it on."

Then Ifft remembered the school's principal, Steve Gardner, was a Vietnam veteran, and Ifft called him to talk about having students write letters to include in the package.

"I thought why not make this guy's whole unit happy," Ifft said.

Gardner called Creed Ostler, the librarian at Big Park who remembered a book, "Letters to a

Soldier," written by Julie Hutt and David Falvey, a first lieutenant with the U.S. Army National Guard. The book is a compilation of letters, drawings and photographs sent between the students and Falvey while he served in Iraq during 2008.

Since "Letters to a Soldier" is a fourth-grade book with classroom projects included in the text, Ostler talked with Michelle Johnson, the school's fourth-grade teacher.

"Part of our language standards is letter writing so this project fit right in with our curriculum," Johnson said. "What the children are doing is also part of a library project."

Johnson also used the project to teach geography, current events, handwriting, storytelling and about performing acts of kindness without expecting something in return.

"There was a hidden lesson with this-letter-writing composition. Grammar and punctuation are tied in as well," Johnson said. "We talked about making their letters interesting to read rather than just a list of facts and questions."

The students first read "Letters to a Soldier" and discussed what they read. Each student then wrote a letter and drew a picture.

"We're trying to surprise him and make his day.

We. also want to tell him we appreciate what he's doing for us," said Natalie Montgomery about her first letter to a soldier. "I told him about me and my favorite color and asked what his was, and about my holiday. I told him I was born in Nzhny, Russia but lived in Sedona for the rest of my life."

Montgomery included a picture of a brown dog holding the American flag.

Maricelo Contreras drew two pictures. One was a peace sign with one section red, one white and one blue. A small American flag decorated the middle where the lines met.

"Basically, the world needs peace so the war can end," Contreras said.

Jose Morison's grandfather served as a chef in the military, so Morison was happy to participate in the project.

"It's important to write letters because it might cheer them up and make them feel better," he said as he added blue to the sky in his picture. "I wanted to say thank you for being in our Army and protecting us, and that some day I want to be just like him when I grow up."

Ifft said he is in awe about what the children are doing.

"It's so uplifting to know people would take something like this and go with it. Some young kid across the world away from home and family will receive a little joy and happiness," Ifft said. "I have no idea why I received that package but everything happens for a reason. Don't question it."

Original Publication Date: January 18, 2012

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