WOODBURN -- This wasn't the first year Joni Price assigned her fifth grade students to read "Sleds on Boston Common: A Story from the American Revolution."
But this will be the Woodlan Elementary School teacher's most memorable experience discussing Louise Borden's book.
The story unfolds in Boston during the winter of 1774. Henry Price receives a sled for his ninth birthday but can't use it because occupying British troops are camped on Boston Common, where the city's best sled runs were found. Henry and his siblings wished on a large stone that the troops would leave.
After the tweens read the book, they dreamed aloud about what it would be like to have a community focal point where Woodburn residents could wish for peace, good health and other intangibles.
"It had never been mentioned before," Price said of the students' desire to install a wishing stone in their small town.
Their campaign included writing persuasive letters to Woodburn Mayor Joe Kelsey and asking the local Lions Club to support the effort. City council members officially approved installation of a wishing stone in the Woodburn Clock Tower Plaza.
The ceremony, held on Saturday morning, included dedication of a plaque and a stone about the size of a medium dog.
"It's because of your strength, courage and determination that made this possible today," Price said before inviting some students to read from their letters.
"The wishing stone can bring our community together and make it stronger," Kaitlynn Baxter read. "If people start wishing for good to happen, they may start acting on it."
The fifth grader observed that "people are now feeling angry, scared and depressed."
Kalena Matthias also referenced the coronavirus pandemic in her correspondence.
"With all the problems in the world right now, every town should have a wishing stone," she said.
Carsyn Wills also read from her letter.
"Woodburn is a great community, but every community could use more kindness. Even just a little kindness could go a long way," she said. "If you are feeling sad or down in the dumps, maybe you could make a wish there."
Levi Lautzenheiser, another classmate, recited from his letter to Mayor Kelsey.
"The Woodburn wishing stone is a big deal for us," he said. "The stone is a gift to everyone, and everyone who made it possible is awesome."
Price fought back tears after hearing her students' words.
"These kiddos are so compassionate ... and caring .. to see them invested in their community is very touching," she said, pausing twice to gather her composure.
Elizabeth Preston was among the students wearing T-shirts that read "Kids & Kindness Rock."
"We were talking as a class about how neat it would be to really have a rock like that," she said of the discussions that dated back to February.
The class brainstormed what to say in their written appeals and where to place the large stone. The effort took time, Elizabeth said before the downtown dedication.
"But, hey," she added, "we made it happen."