It was Shakespeare who asked "What's in a name?" And for one Thomson Elementary student, the answer is mileage. A lot of mileage. One thousand miles, give or take a few.
In October, third-grader Kayla Thomas wrote her name and school on a piece of paper and tied it to a balloon before launching it into the sky as part of a 21st Century After School balloon release project.
Last week, Kayla received a letter from 15-year-old Sara Frost, who said she found the balloon in her backyard in South Hampton, NH. Sara said she took the balloon to show her classmates at Cotting School, a special education day school in Lexington, Mass.
"When I saw the letter in my box, I said 'It can't be. Not all the way from Massachusetts.' But it was," said Barbara Johnson, the 21st Century director at Thomson Elementary.
Sara's letter included a photo of her holding the deflated orange balloon alongside seven of her classmates. In her letter, she asked many questions inquiring when the balloon was released, the type of weather on that day, where other balloons had landed, and what the class liked about the project.
Kayla said Ms. Johnson entered the two addresses in Mapquest, and estimated the balloon traveled 1,063 land miles. A similar inquiry on Google Earth estimated the length of travel was 900 miles through the air.
In her reply to the letter, she said the balloon release day was "warm and calm."
"I liked it when they went up into the clouds," Kayla said in an interview at school.
In her response to Sara, she said, "The best thing about this project was getting a letter from so far away."
Kayla received a lot of attention over her letter, both at school and at home. The envelope now shows a lot of wear and tear, as she has kept it with her so much, and enjoyed showing it off. She said her father, Andrè, was "real excited about it." Kayla said she likes to go off with her father, usually to Augusta. The farthest she has ever traveled is to Florida, where she goes every summer to visit family and enjoy the beach.
Kayla said she has no idea where New Hampshire is, or what it's like. But Ms. Johnson said she has plans to use Kayla's letter for a geography lesson when they return back to school from the holiday break.
In the meantime, Kayla had to work on her reply letter to Sara and the other students at Cotting. It seems all the attention she received had one disadvantage.
"I don't like it that it's making my teacher give me all these extra questions," Kayla said.
The 8-year-old has more important things in mind to do during 21st Century, like "going outside to play on Fridays, or watching Garfield and Sponge Bob movies. Those are my favorite things," she said. "And walking my dog. I like to walk my dog. She tries to chase other dogs, and she pulls me down the road."
And one day, Kayla plans to go up the road, all the way to New Hampshire. She said she'd like to visit one day, so she can see in person how far her balloon went.