From a love of sports and ice cream to the topics they’re learning about in school, fifth graders at Bayville Intermediate School are learning that they have some things in common with their peers from other parts of the country. They are also learning that they have differences and that understanding those differences is important.
Christine Arthur’s students are benefiting from a connection their teacher has to a teacher at Our lady of Lourdes Elementary School on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which is home to the Oglala Lakota Nation. That teacher, Michelle Turcios, was Ms. Arthur’s student 20 years ago and is a Locust Valley High School alumna (Class of 2014). The teachers collaborated to allow their students to become pen pals this year, and students in both classes are enjoying the experience, taking turns writing back and forth to each other
Bayville Intermediate School fifth grader Eva Jaszczuk said, “I think that this shows us a different view of the world outside of our Bayville bubble.”
Eva’s classmate Isabella Moreano realizes that learning about another culture in this manner highlights facts, rather than cultural perceptions we might have. “Sometimes we tend to make assumptions about other cultures. They just have some different traditions than we do.”
Mrs. Arthur said that the pen pal collaboration is providing lessons that are far more meaningful than those read in books or taught by a teacher. She agrees with her students’ assessments of the project. Her student Tyler Grieco said that both classes are learning about each other’s cultures, “not through the internet, but through our pen pal’s own words.”
Letters from both classes include information about how many siblings the students have, their interest in sports, music and video games and the fact that they too are wearing masks in school. The similarities are far more abundant than the differences.
Ms. Turcios said that her students are also enjoying writing and reading the letters. “My class thinks it is exciting and insightful talking to kids from a different part of the country and learning about New York and a new culture,” she said. “They have also appreciated the fact that Mrs. Arthur’s class has taken the time to learn about Lakota culture and what life is like in South Dakota. Most of all, they are just excited about meeting new kids, learning about what they have in common and forming new friendships.”