Peters Township freshman email pen pals in Columbia

Published Apr 24, 2013 at 10:45 am (Updated Apr 24, 2013 at 10:45 am)

Three ninth grade honors English classes at Peters Township High School have embarked on an interesting project where the students are teamed, through email, with students of their own age in an international school in Medellin, Columbia.

Students in Peters and Columbia are discussing William Shakespeare’s play “Romeo and Juliet,” and are learning how the story is approached by different cultures. The project began in mid-March and is expected to last until mid-May, said Sonya Ring, an English teacher who is also the teacher for the ninth grade honors English. There are 82 students in three classes participating.

“It’s a great way to interact with “Romeo and Juliet” and to get the students to interact and see the story from an international experience,” Ring said.

The English teacher in Columbia, Kelley Webb, is an American who teaches in the international school.

The concept took shape when Lindsey Myers, high school librarian, wrote a grant for a set of 10 iPads to use for a global project. Myers discovered epals and put out the word that Peters Township was looking to establish an international partnership through technology. Several schools around the world responded, but Myers said the Columbus International School in Columbia was the best fit.

Ninth-grader Stephanie Bittel is corresponding with Valeria in Columbia, and while the project is still in its infancy, Stephanie said the two email back and forth about the sports in which each participate, their siblings, their favorite color and pets.

“It’s so cool to interact with them,” Stephanie said. “They live in Columbia, but they speak English.”

Sabrina Liu communicates with Daniel, a native of Columbia, and said she feels comfortable emailing a boy her age.

“We write about our interests and what books we like,” Sabrina said. “One thing I like is to talk about “Romeo and Juliet” and the different countries. I enjoy it as it’s something I’ve never done before.”

“It gets us out of the everyday routine,” Stephanie said.

Correspondence stopped for a few weeks as each school had different weeks off for spring break.

Sebastian Yocca’s experience has not been as satisfactory as those of classmates Sabrina and Stephanie. He sent a message to his assigned epal, Federico, but he hasn’t had a return message.

The students prepared and sent individual videos with the help of the high school Spanish teachers. Sebastian watched Federico’s video so he, like the other students, was able to put a face to a name.

Ring said she reviews every email message from the Peters students before it is sent to Columbia to avoid any miscommunication that could result in something that could be inappropriate if lost in translation.

Emily Sanders, assistant principal at the high school, said the project is a great way to integrate several areas of education, including global awareness, use of technology, literacy skills, collaboration and communication skills.

Ring said other areas learned through the project are world language and world cultures, along with introducing the students to Columbia.

“Learning about the world is the best way to learn about yourself,” Myers said.

Yes, Ring and Myers said, if the project continues to be as successful as it has in the first month, the program will most likely be expanded to other grades next year.

“This is great preparation for talking about their own heritage, and for looking forward to learning about a diverse culture,” Ring said. “They talk about their schools, sports and band, and they find out how similar they are.”

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