Friday, January 12, 2001

Pen pals, face to face

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It was a moment of delight Wednesday morning when third-grade pen pals from Miami Valley Christian Academy in Newtown and Chase Elementary School in Northside met for the first time.

        Miami Valley students clapped and shrieked when the Chase students entered their classroom. Some students were tentative, but their shyness soon melted into smiles and hugs.

[photo] Antonio Clark, 9, (center) of Chase Elementary with pen pals Travis Britton (left) and Josh Mitchell.
(Dick Swaim photo)
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        The students, about 20 in each class, have been paired since last fall. They've exchanged letters, photos and videos. It's been a wonderful learning experience, their teachers said.

        Abby Greves, 8, from Miami Valley, said she's learned “You can have lots of different friends.”

        “The children discovered they have a lot more in common with each other than differences,” added Louann Bartholomew, Miami Valley third-grade teacher.

        Like Pokemon and basketball and 'N Sync.

        “We write about how we are and what we do,” said Hope Forgus, 8, from Miami Valley.

        She and her Chase pen pal, Daniquwa Bailey, 9, talked on the phone before meeting. Daniquwa was excited to visit Miami Valley.

        “This is a Christian school, and I'm a Christian, too,” she said with a big smile.

        The hosts treated their guests to a performance by Christian juggler David Cain, class activities, recess and lunch, featuring a cake decorated with a photo of the Chase students.

[photo] Spencer Willingham, 8, (left) from Chase Elementary, and Nick Turner, 9, of Miami Valley Christian Academy. play during recess.
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        In turn, Chase students brought a fruit and nut ring for Star, the Miami Valley third-graders' pet rabbit. They also bought an amaryllis bulb to grow in the classroom.

        Although they've only corresponded a few months, bonds have been formed. Both teachers said their students squeal when they get letters and can't wait to read them to the class and respond.

        “These children always remember pen pals in their prayers,” Mrs. Bartholomew said of her class.

        One Chase boy nearly cried when he read that his Miami Valley pen pal broke his arm. Another Chase boy lost both of his parents last fall, but having a pen pal soothes some of the pain.

        “It lets him know there are people who care about him,” said David Gaskell, third-grade teacher from Chase.


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