Union Elementary students get aboard ‘The Polar Express’ One magical journey


By Ashley Luthern

aluthern@vindy.com

POLAND

Kindergarten students at Union Elementary School donned pajamas Friday and hitched a ride on the Polar Express.

Teacher Erica Donahue blew a whistle and asked her students to form a line and pretend they were on a train.

When they reached their destination, Donahue read “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg, a Christmas story about a boy who rides the Polar Express to meet Santa Claus. All the children on the train are dressed in their pajamas.

Once he arrives, Santa lets the boy choose the “first gift of Christmas” — anything in the world — and the boy chooses a bell from Santa’s sleigh. He later finds only those who believe in Santa can hear the bell.

When Donahue led her students back to the classroom, they found cookies, cocoa and bells waiting for them.

“Somebody brought the treats and surprised us,” said kindergartner Madison Wymer.

Asked who she thought that somebody was, Wymer didn’t hesitate.

“Santa!” she said.

Principal Mike Masucci said Polar Express day is a tradition and credited the school’s teachers and staff for the day’s success.

“It creates a memory,” he said.

Teachers plan lessons and activities around The Polar Express, such as having students write and draw what they want their first gift of Christmas to be.

Kindergartner Parker Gromen said Friday was the first time he heard the story, and he asked for a Dr. Dreadful toy, a kit to make edible zombielike creatures, for his first gift.

His classmate Evelyn Hunneyman said she wished for an American Girl doll. Her favorite part of the day, though, wasn’t thinking about gifts.

“Santa came and left us a bell. The best thing was finding the surprise,” she said.

Wymer, the student so sure it was Santa who left the snack and bells, received her “first gift of Christmas” on Friday.

“I said I wanted a bell because I like it and because the bell means you’re stopping at Santa’s workshop,” she said.

The boy in “The Polar Express” explains another reason for the bell at the close of the book:

“At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell, but as years passed, it fell silent for all of them. ... Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me, as it does for all who truly believe.”

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