I mailed our letters to Operation Gratitude today — fourteen earnest, warm-hearted notes thanking unknown soldiers for their sacrifices this holiday season. Each one was inspired by a sweet Christmas story of selflessness and teamwork.
You see, last week I read The Night Santa Got Lost : How NORAD Saved Christmas to my fourth graders. I had run across and gotten interested in this book last spring, but had to wait to share it until December rolled around, of course.
I introduced the book by explaining the purpose of NORAD to my classes. I pointed out Colorado Springs (where Peterson Air Force Base is located) on a digital map and showed them the official website of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. Then, I told them the funny, but true story of how a misprint in a Sears department store Christmas ad gave out NORAD’s secret military hotline phone number by accident. I told them what happened when the hotline rang and a General answered, fearing the worst, but instead hearing an innocent, little kid asking to speak to Santa! Just like me…they were hooked by this lead-in — and wanted to hear Keane’s story of NORAD’s attempt to track and rescue Old Saint Nick one Christmas Eve.
Check out the whole Sears story here.
This book was written in the same rhyming pattern as Clement Moore’s “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” As it unfolds, Michael Keane explains how inclement weather caused Santa to leave early on his Christmas Eve flight one year. NORAD, watching the skies as always, was on top of it as Santa departed, but they soon lost him from the radar screen! All available help rushed to the rescue to save Santa and Christmas… but Santa was well-hidden, buried in a snow drift! By the time brave soldiers located the jolly man and dug him out of the snow and ice, it was too late for him to finish his route and get the presents delivered on time! In a spirit of true military comradery, soldiers around the world combined their resources to help Santa finish the job! I loved this book and my students did, too!
After reading, I showed my students NORAD’s “Santa Tracker” site, and we browsed through all of the information, games, music, video clips, and so on in the sidebar. We also chatted about our family members who are in (or were once) in the military. As things sometimes do in a library, talk meandered into a call for action. Several of the kids decided to team up and write notes thanking the soldiers for their service. All I had to do was find an organization to help us deliver them… and that was Operation Gratitude.
After this afternoon filled with sweet letter-writing, I was inspired to put together a little library center resource so others could duplicate our project, if desired. It includes a bit of “Dear Hero” note paper and some other book suggestions, along with a word search featuring words from the Keane book. You can find it in my TpT store. Enjoy and Merry Christmas!