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Written by Kate Bertin ~ Photo by Kate Bertin
from The Independent Press, Dec. 16, 2004

Students from Forsyth Elementary School kept their pajamas and slippers on last Friday for a special trip to the Roxy Theater.

Kindergarteners through third-graders were treated to a special showing of "The Polar Express," a Robert Zemeckis film based on the classic children's Christmas book.

The book, written by' Chris Van Allsburg, is "a heartwarming story, about the power of belief that resonates across generations and cultures," according to the publisher.

When Zemeckis and Tom Hanks decided to make a movie out of the children's book, the National Education Association and Houghton Mifflin (the book's publisher) teamed up to promote the movie and reading at the same time.

During lunch one day, the teachers at Forsyth Elementary School started talking about the upcoming movie. Each of them has a copy of "The Polar Express" in their classrooms, according to teacher Heather Pester.

The staff organization at the Rosebud Health Care Center purchased tickets for a total of 125 students so that all could see and enjoy the premiere matinee, according to Forsyth Elementary principal Kelly Anderson.

The children brought their bathrobes and nightshirts to wear to the movie. The children in the movie are wearing night clothes, Anderson explained. Some of the teachers joined in the fun by wearing their own bathrobes.

Two of the teachers donated a bag of popcorn for every child, and the railroad donated bottles of water.

At the end of the film, Santa Claus visited the Roxy and gave every child a bell to ring. In the movie, the bell represents belief.

After seeing the movie, teachers at Forsyth Elementary used it as a springboard for writing exercises. The first grade, for instance, talked about the "powerful words" that can be used to describe action - words such as "trembled," that paint a picture in people's imagination. They then wrote stories using "powerful'' words, Pester said.

The group project turned out remarkably well, and people stepped forward with gifts to make it happen, Pester said.

"The kids were so pleased after the movie," she said. "They were just dancing in the street."