Jeanne Quinlivan was tickled to meet her penpal, 10-year-old Josh Boyers from Perrysburg’s Woodland Elementary.
“I have a son named Josh. That’s why I picked his letter,” said Mrs. Quinlivan, who lives at Kingston Residence of Perrysburg.
“He’s 40,” the younger Josh chipped in, adding that he learned that from one of his penpal’s letters.
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The two have been writing back and forth since Valentine’s Day, and today the fourth-graders from Woodland walked around the corner to Kingston to meet their older penpals in person. There were smiles and applause as the students performed a few magic tricks and told jokes to get things started.
Nine of the students were waiting for the penpal they shared, Kingston resident John Elk who said he wanted to make sure every student had a penpal even if it meant writing a lot of letters himself.
“You’re a bit of a rock star in our class,” Woodland fourth-grade teacher Lynn Cherry told Mr. Elk when he arrived to the gathering from a doctor’s appointment.
In one of his letters, he told one of his nine penpals, “The reason I wrote a lot of your classmates is I have plenty of time.”
The students wrote to their penpals about birthdays and family events, pets and music and movies they like. The residents in turn shared stories about their families, their lives, favorite foods, and even their experiences during World War II.
Ms. Cherry said she involves her class in some kind of service learning project every year though this was the first time she partnered with Kingston.
“It goes with writing and computers, but the main goal is service learning — to teach them empathy and learn about our community,” she said. “I want to teach my students that they can make a difference even if they’re just 9.”
Writing a friendly letter just touched the surface of what she hoped the project would accomplish, she said.
“The bigger picture was being a citizen in our community — an active citizen,” Ms. Cherry said.
Fourth-grade student Alyssa Hutchins sat at the feet of her penpal Alice Cunningham, a retired kindergarten and first-grade teacher who told Alyssa she loved teaching and recalled writing letters to her cousins when she was a girl.
Alyssa said she enjoyed writing letters — something kids today don’t do very often.
“It really was fun. I never had a penpal,” Alyssa said. “It’s fun to meet new people — it’s just fun to write to someone new.”
While Alyssa said email is far more common than a written letter, Mrs. Cunningham said she didn’t have email.
“I don’t know too much about computers,” she told Alyssa. “You probably know more than I do about that.”
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.