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All aboard!: Hammond Hill students ride ‘Polar Express’ into the holidays

December 18, 2018

NORTH AUGUSTA - A classic Christmas book was just the ticket Tuesday to take children at Hammond Hill Elementary full steam ahead into the holiday break.

The entire school – from kindergarteners to fifth graders in groups throughout the day – celebrated all things “The Polar Express,” the award-winning book by Chris Van Allsburg made into an animated movie starring Tom Hanks.

The book and movie tell the story of a little boy who takes a train ride on the Polar Express to the North Pole on Christmas Eve. There, he receives the first gift, a bell from a reindeer’s harness, from Santa Claus.

Children couldn’t take the Polar Express, of course, but they came pretty close.

Wearing a black hat with gold braid, the train conductor, with a railroad lantern in one hand and a bell in the other, met the students at the door and ushered them to their seats. The school’s long entrance hall made a near-perfect passenger car with the children sitting three-by-three on one side and two-by-two on the other.

Just as the little boy in the story does, the children – and teachers - wore cozy pajamas, some with holiday designs – snowflakes, reindeer, Buddy the Elf and the Grinch - and others with superheroes – Batman and Spider-Man - and Disney princesses.

Some children wore bells around their necks.

Richard Rogers of WRDW Channel 12 read the story and kept the program on track.

“It’s a cold morning in North Augusta,” Rogers told the children, “but it’s even colder where we’re going.”

After the reading, the children drank hot chocolate in the lunchroom and watched a snippet of the movie.

Kindergarten teacher Debbie Holloway said “Polar Express” Day is an annual event and a Christmas tradition at Hammond Hill.

“We’ll go back to our classrooms and do ‘Polar Express’ activities with the kids and later, if we have time, we’ll watch the movie in the afternoon,” Holloway said. “We put a lot of learning activities into the day to motivate the students.”

The students love the book and movie, but they might love wearing their pajamas to school the most, Holloway said.

“They like that, but I think the teachers like it even more than the students,” she said. “They all want to see who wore the best jammies.”

Thursday is the last day of school before Christmas break.

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