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Run, run as fast as you can

the students check out minor damage done to the gingerbread man's arm and foot from his journeys.1 / 2
Colleen Knoop's kindergarten class at Rossman School gather around their gingerbread man who escaped the school in December and finally made his way home on Valentine's Day. They have postcards as proof of his travels from North Dakota to Austria, California to Sweden. Principal Sandy Nelson, center, also brought the class a signed proclamation from the governor.2 / 2

Rossman Elementary teacher Colleen Knoop's kindergarten class got a special treat on Valentine's Day Monday. Their gingerbread man returned to class -- with only minor injuries.

"I caught your gingerbread man and order your principal to return him to class promptly," Principal Sandy Nelson read the class from a proclamation Gov. Mark Dayton had signed.

Knoop said every year, a couple weeks before Christmas, she has a gingerbread man baked at the bakery, and then the class reads stories and learns the gingerbread man's story.

"We had to keep an eye on him all day, and then when the kids were in another class, he ran away that afternoon," Knoop said.

The kindergarteners searched the school high and low for their gingerbread man, only to find a trail of crumbs leading right out the door.

For the following months then, the gingerbread man sent postcards, letters and even drawings from where he visited around the world.

(The postcards were actually thanks to family and friends of the students from around the world, while the gingerbread man waited in the freezer for a couple months, but shhh, don't tell the kids.)

The gingerbread man visited everywhere from California to South Africa, the Virgin Islands to Austria, Holland to North Dakota, and many, many places in between. Knoop said they received a great response from family and friends sending postcards, getting quite a few cards and from many locations.

"The kids loved it," she said. "Every morning I'd tell them we've got mail and read it."

Not only was it fun, it was a learning experience as well. When they would get a new postcard, Knoop would map the location on the Smart boards in class and the students would learn about the state or country it came from.

Then last week while Nelson was in St. Paul, he took the proclamation Knoop had drafted and asked the governor to sign it for the class.

In his couple months of "travel," the gingerbread man did suffer some leg and arm injuries, but he made it back to his home with Knoop's class in time for Valentine's Day.

"It's always fun. They get into it," she said of the project.

And as a Valentine's bonus, the kids got a taste of their traveling gingerbread man.