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Antioch Students get a holiday train ride on Polar Express

The new Polar Express train was a hit with the students!

Antioch Elementary kindergarten students took a train ride into fantasy when the Polar Express pulled into the school’s media center Thursday (Dec. 15, 2011).

The sixth annual “train ride” is based around the popular children’s book and movie “Polar Express.” It’s about a child who gets to travel on a magical train called the Polar Express and taken to the North Pole. There, he’s given a bell off of Santa’s sleigh and told that as long as he believes in the spirit of the holidays, he will always be able to hear the bell ringing.

This is the sixth year that Kathy Gwinn, Antioch Elementary’s media specialist, has held the Polar Express “train ride” in the school’s media center.

“We always do a Polar Express day with our kindergarten students,” she said. “In the past, I've made a train out of two refrigerator boxes; but, this year, a parent volunteer, Jim Camps, made a train for me because refrigerator boxes are hard to find now.”

Gwinn said the train is amazing. “Well, let me tell you, he went way beyond my expectations!” she said. “He runs a construction company and had a screencast made of the train and made two cars. One of them allows a photo opportunity for students. He used a Polar Express train set to help him with the screencast. It is amazing.”

The event starts with tickets for the train ride being taken at the door by Gwinn, who is the train’s “conductor.” She greets students with, “Welcome Aboard!”

Students and teachers, like in the book, wear their pajamas on the train ride. Students are given hot chocolate and cookies made in the shape of a train by the school cafeteria staff. One by one students have their pictures made looking out of the train’s window.

When all the photos are taken, students watch a video of well-known actor Lou Diamond Phillips read the Polar Express. After Phillips is finished, each student is given a sleigh bell, just like the one given to the child in thestory. Excitement rippled through the students as they were handed their special bell.

Gwinn said this is one of the most popular events at the school. “I had decided I wasn’t going to do it any more but the parents pleaded with me to continue it, so now it’s a tradition,” she said. “I get comments every year that this is one of the best memories of school.”

Camps, the train’s builder, has agreed to store the train for the school and then bring it back each year for the event.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Dec 18, 2011 by Kathy Gwinn

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