Yesterday, on Mother's Day, I had the blessing of having both sons and our daughter-in-law come visit and share a meal together on the back porch. I started the day at church, and since I had a gig Saturday, somehow I never got around to a weekend post.
So today, I'm reprinting my Sunday feature that ran in the New Castle Courier-TImes.
I was touched by both nursing home and school in coordinating a pen pal exchange between Tri sixth-graders and Heritage House seniors. What a great project to bring the older and younger generations together through words. And then to meet in person.
Please read on...
The tension mounted Monday afternoon in Dusty Neal’s Tri Elementary
classroom. Sixth-grade students watched the door, anticipating the arrival
of some special guests.
The guests were the pals behind the pens the kids had swapped letters with
since Christmas. As several of the senior writers rolled into the
classroom in their wheelchairs, they waved and sported wide smiles.
Everyone seemed anxious to meet each other.
It was a field trip for the Heritage House seniors. And it was a win-win
for all involved.
Student Grant Cash said his favorite part of the project is, “We get to
find out all their history.” Jade Coffey likes “getting to know a person”
along with “Thinking of the joy someone gets over a letter.”
Evan Craft enjoys writing to his senior friend so much that he hopes to keep it
up this summer – long after school credit is involved.
Heritage House pen pal Katy Walker said, “I thought they would be bored
with me. I’m definitely not bored with them.” She was happy to discover
the project involved sixth graders because “that was my favorite year in
Participating were Neal’s 31 students and Heritage House’s 24 residents.
“It’s been a really unique experience,” said the teacher. “These kids are
learning about someone else.” This is the first year he has implemented
the activity. “I had wanted to do some service learning,” he said.
The project also counted as an English / writing exercise and Neal has
seen the academic payoff. “I’ve definitely seen some improvement in their
Heritage House Activity Director Shari Waltman and Assistant Activity
Director Barbara Gideon escorted their residents to the school. Waltman
wanted the students to know that their letters are important to her residents.
Students got the chance to ask their pen pals questions, such as inquiring
about favorite foods, colors and seasons, if they have kids of their own
and what they did for a living. One resident, Janice “Sarg” Halphin, was
asked how she got the nickname. She explained that she has 30 nieces and
nephews and once when they were extra rowdy at an Easter egg hunt, Halphin
told them to settle down in a stern tone. They gave her the name and it stuck.
After a period of meeting, greeting, questions, answers and even a few
hugs, it was time for the pen pals to go their separate ways.
Said Heritage House’s Norma Sauer during the afternoon, “I love kids.”