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From Tokyo to Wesley Chapel; Kindergartners welcome pen pal letters from Japan

Students from Wesley Chapel Elementary School, shown here with principal Wendy Gravely, have started writing letters to a class in Tokyo, Japan. Each student picks a pen pal they want to keep in touch with. (Josh Whitener/UCW photo)

(story reprinted with permission from Union County Weekly)
Kindergartners from Wesley Chapel Elementary School are taking part in a learning experience that reaches halfway across the world.

Students from Debbie Baker’s class recently received the first packet of pen pal letters from students of the International School of the Sacred Heart in Tokyo.

The letters are part of a school-wide effort at Wesley Chapel Elementary to emphasize global learning. Each class has been assigned a country to study throughout the school year, and Baker got Japan.

“It’s good for kids to learn about another country,” Baker said. “Our goal is to make sure we all know that we (Americans) aren’t the only ones, that there’s a whole, great, big world out there, and we should not be so selfish in this world.”

A student’s mother who attended high school at the International School of the Sacred Heart, suggested the correspondence. The school is an all-girls institution and is located at the heart of Tokyo. Instructors from all over the world come to teach at the school, and as many as 30 nationalities are represented at one time by the
institution.

Baker believes the correspondence is a great way for the children to learn more about Japan, in addition to the books and culture studies already planned into the curriculum. The class began communicating with a group of 19 students called the “Penguin Class” from the Tokyo school.

The same students from both schools will be writing each other throughout the year. Because the International School of the Sacred Heart is taught in English, language barriers will not be an issue when writing the
letters.

The pen-pal letters have helped the students work on their handwriting, learn new words, and develop coloring skills. But there is a larger objective for the activity: to help the students discover other cultures.

In addition to writing the letters, Baker and her class also are looking for other ways to communicate with the Penguin Class. Although a simultaneous Skype session would not be possible due to the time difference, Baker’s students hope to record a video for their pen pals.

Wesley Chapel Elementary Principal Wendy Gravely is pleased to have students this young taking part in such a learning experience. “I’m very excited to see what the kids are doing with these letters. It makes me very proud,” Gravely said.

Written by: Josh Whitener, staff writer, Union County Weekly
Posted: Dec 12, 2011 by Ben Shealy

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