CONWAY — Thirty-eight kindergartners at the Pine Tree School in Center Conway were on a mission Thursday as they went on a roundup of missing gingerbread men.
Pupils in Amy Trussell’s and Sarah Learn’s kindergarten classes have been reading books about gingerbread men, including the “Gingerbread Baby,” by Jan Brett, and learning about the importance of community.
With them on Thursday’s adventure was Emily Taylor, who is filling in for Learn, who is on maternity leave.
On Wednesday, the kids made and decorated gingerbread man cutouts, which were left out on their desks overnight to dry.
But when the youngsters arrived at school Thursday, all 38 had vanished.
“The pesky gingerbread men were able to run away from Pine Tree again despite advice from older children to tie them to their chairs or clip them to their backpacks,” said Principal Aimee Frechette.
Frechette said the students searched high and low but came up empty-handed, leading her to contact Conway police to file missing person reports. Fortunately, there happened to be a bus to take kids and teachers to the police station.
At the station, the young Pandas met with Officer Ricky Gaudreau to give a description of their prized possessions.
“The community is so great,” Frechette says. “They all get into character and take it just as seriously as the children do.”
It is the sixth consecutive year that Pine Tree has done a gingerbread man hunt.
“Everyone in the school looks forward to this day,” Frechette said.
At the police station, Gaudreau deputized the kids as “Pine Tree investigators.” They were asked to provide a description of the missing gingerbread men.
“Twelve inches tall,” one student said, and another added, he “had little feet.”
With other descriptions that included “very decorative” and “did not drive,” a couple of gingerbread men were found along with a clue directing the group to the Conway Transfer Station.
More clues led the group to the Sherman Farm, the Center Conway Post Office, Conway Parks and Recreation Department, Conway Town Hall and the Center Conway Fire Station, and the Mineral Springs Assisted Living Facility, where the kids sang carols to the residents, then rounded up more missing gingerbread men.
The students wrapped up their adventure with lunch, courtesy of Flatbread, in North Conway.
There was one other stop. “Mrs. Learn surprised the children when we stopped by her house,” Frechette said. “She was out at her mailbox, and when she opened it, found a gingerbread man. Mrs. Learn got on the bus and went to some of the stops with us.”
Frechette said there were “some very creative gingerbread men this year,” as they hid in fire engines and trophy cases.
“They were all found and accounted for,” Marge Morrison, administrative assistant, said of the gingerbread men. “There were a few lost feathers and beads missing, but they were all safely returned.”
But this might have been the coldest gingerbread man hunt yet for Pine Tree.
“It was very cold, but when you’re that excited nothing matters,” Frechette said, laughing. “It was such a blast. We let the parents know ahead of time what we were up to. It was incredible to see our community open up their arms to our students.”
A different adventure is mapped out by teachers each year.
“Everyone is so great to us,” Frechette said. “No one has said no to us. They want to be part of this special day.”