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First-class virtual travelers explore holidays around the world


All aboard Winter Airlines for an unforgettable, eight-country tour of holidays around the world.

Riley Osborne makes sure his travel documents are in order

That’s what first-graders in Breton Downs Elementary teacher Stacey Szczepanski’s class were treated to in the weeks leading up to winter break. Jodi Westgate and Molly Anderson’s first-graders embarked on similar journeys.

“It connects so well with our (studies of) culture and traditions, along with our map units in social studies,” Szczepanski said. First-graders also visited Frederik Meijer Gardens to see the annual holiday trees around the world display.

Teachers simulated the airplane boarding process — with colored rows called instead of those real-life “zones.” There were in-flight movies about destinations that included Israel, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico and Russia.

Each journey also included baggage claim and “suitcase” folders that students packed with worksheets about the destination countries. Reading, writing and handwriting, phonics and art were integrated into every lesson.

Esme Biscevic shows off her passport

As Szczepanski’s students filled in worksheets recently on Netherlands holiday traditions, they shared traditions at their own houses.

Artley Townshend said her mom makes pumpkin bread. Awna Burrell said she gets chocolate waffles.

Jackson Dill said his family “has these little things (party poppers) we all pop after dinner.” Pete Baker said he gets to stay up extra late.

Quinn Brown said he visits friends and family. “My cousin has a hot tub, and we get to go in it,” he said.

And Phineas Rood said his family sometimes visits his grandmother in Florida over the holidays. He couldn’t recall the town, but “it’s the white house with the flat roof,” he said.

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From Ireland to India, students tour holidays around the globe

Around the world in two days

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Morgan Jarema
Morgan Jarema is a reporter and copy editor, covering Kent ISD, Forest Hills and Northview. She is a Grand Rapids native and a product of Grand Rapids Public Schools, including Brookside and West Leonard elementaries, City Middle/High School and Ottawa Hills. She found her tribe in journalism in 1997 and has never wanted to do anything but write. For 15 years she was a freelance journalist for The Grand Rapids Press, covering local schools and government, religion, business, home & garden and lifestyles. She and her husband, John, think even those without kiddos should be invested in their local schools and made to feel a part of them. Read Morgan's full bio

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