In a touching lesson on learning, Harrisburg High School Creative Writing students have paired up with local elementary students to connect over pen pal letters. The project aimed at “making learning real” was spearheaded by high school English teacher, Kaye DesLauriers, and her sister, Ellen Weber, first grade teacher at Journey Elementary. Students exchanged letters on a regular basis between the two classes. Lauren Williams is a member of the Creative Writing class and describes the contents of the fun letters, saying, “We typically write about our favorite things (foods, colors, animals, and ice-cream). We also talk about our lives, like our siblings, friends, and pets.” After multiple communications back and forth on favorites and daily routines, both groups were ready to interact and meet their corresponding pal; therefore, a field trip was planned for the high schoolers to visit Journey Elementary as an opportunity to make the connection on words become real.
On the field trip itself, the high school students spent their block period with the first grade class at Journey finally meeting their pen pals after weeks of anticipation. Since writing letters is a very limited glimpse into the personality of a young mind, interactive activities expanded the connection that students developed with their pen pals. Lauren detailed the day by reflecting on the activities the pairs did during their time together in the classroom “First, we answered some icebreaker questions about ourselves and our favorite activities. Then, we made acrostic poems with our names. My pen pal Sydney and I struggled to find words that she felt were fitting for both of her ‘y’s. After we read a few books, we returned to the high school.” No age is exempt from some whole-hearted fun, and every student involved enjoyed the unique unit and its exciting finale with a powerful message behind simple letters. The first grade class grew in their writing skills and communication abilities while the high schoolers were pushed to become role models for young students and find creative ways to create dynamic conversation. Mrs. DesLauriers summarized the endearing experiment in education by emphasizing, “There is incredible value in making learning real in our classrooms.”