While the U.S. Postal Service’s woes might indicate handwritten correspondence is a dying art, fast replaced by electronic messaging, the tradition is still alive and kicking locally.
Third-graders at Pierceton Elementary and South Whitley Elementary have been trading letters for 15 to 20 years, according to third-grade teacher Julie Underhill, Pierceton Elementary.
“We have two goals,” she said. “One is for letter/note writing, and the other is to meet the students from each other’s school so that they will hopefully remember each other when they get to middle school.”
Correspondence starts in October, with schools alternating each month. In January students write one-paragraph note cards to practice main idea sentences, detail sentences and concluding sentences. Later in March, postcards are sent.
Underhill added, “Then I make a big invitation to the pen pal picnic that the children sign since the picnic is always held at the Pierceton Park.”
Brock Rhodes’ fourth grade class at Claypool Elementary does a similar pen pal program with Shawn Longenberger’s Jefferson Elementary class.
“With all of our instant messaging, the excitement and anticipation of waiting and receiving a handwritten letter is being lost,” Rhodes said. “Who doesn’t love getting a letter?”
The correspondences give Warsaw students writing practice while allowing them to form new friendships, which they might not have made otherwise.
“The letters are handwritten in ‘friendly letter format’ on Claypool and Jefferson stationery,” Rhodes said, noting they write until school ends and take a field trip so pen pals can meet.
Rhodes said, “We had a student last year recognize his fourth grade pen pal at the Jefferson versus Claypool soccer game. It was neat to see them catch up a little after the game.”
Also at Claypool Elementary, Sara Rodes’ second grade class will be participating in The Great Mail Race after receiving letters from a school in Connecticut last spring.
“We will be choosing one school from each of the 50 states to which we will send a completed questionnaire about our school; a letter sharing information about our school, towns and state; a class picture; and a student-written letter to another second grade class,” Rodes said.
The class will use a map to chart the towns they receive letters from, with students writing information they learn on black-lined masters of the states.
Rodes added, “It’s my hope that not only will my students learn more about writing and communicating, but also about the various states.”
Washington Elementary third-grade teacher Kandi Kesler has been lifelong friends with Audrey Petro who is in the Navy. After a student displayed interest in military history, she had her class send Petro Valentine’s Day cards.
“She responded with a letter telling us about the ship she was on and sent my class a set of stickers of her ship’s symbol and a T-shirt. And then my class sent letters back,” Kesler said.
“The students had a great time writing our letters,” she added, noting it showed different jobs in the Navy. “Audrey really likes what she does, so I also think it showed them the hard work that they would have to put in to find a job that’s rewarding.”
Kesler hopes to have letters out before Labor Day weekend this year so Petro has time to respond by Christmas. The goal is for students to send three letters. She also told last year’s class they could write letters at recess if interested.
Adults shouldn’t forget to correspond either. Faith Ketterer leads a card making class for adults from 6 p.m.-7:45 p.m. the last Monday of each month at the Warsaw Community Public Library — registration is required. She developed the interest while overseas.
“We lived overseas and it wasn’t easy to find cards in English,” she said. “We lived in a community with other English speakers, and we all got involved in making cards.”
Her class makes three cards using stamps and other embellishments, plus precut components; however, Ketterer said, “They can change the words and sentiments.”
She added it’s fun to complete cards with others, and recipients will appreciate they’re homemade.
So, grab some stationery, send a handwritten note and surprise old friends or family members: It’s sure to brighten their day!