I'm pretty excited to be organizing a children's pen pal exchange! The inspiration is an activity in Will's Finding Common Ground Cadette Girl Scout badge: the badge asks her to get to know someone different from her, but the suggested activities seemed a little shallow to me, mostly involved with interviewing someone and then moving on with your life.
That's not really getting to know someone. I want my kid to learn how to REALLY get to know someone, because it is absolutely a skill. Think about it: in order to truly get to know someone, you have to be able to connect with them, to let them in by sharing things about yourself, not just asking them things about themselves. You have to find out not just facts and background, but what their sense of humor is like, what their spirit is. Do they have a dry sense of humor? Do they prefer to talk about books or about people? Do they like to travel? Do they tell jokes? Do they tell stories?
That's the kind of getting to know someone that I think that kids should be practicing, and what better way to try it out than with a pen pal exchange?
My goals for this project (at least for my own children!) are to give our kids an opportunity to practice the art of letter writing, to experience the fun of sending and receiving letters, and, most of all, to make connections with other children. If you think that your kids might like that, too, then read on and see if you might light to register to be part of this year's exchange.
As part of the pen pal exchange, your child can expect to receive an introductory letter from every child in his/her small group (I’ll be passing out the names and contact info of the children in your child’s small group to each of the participants in that group; please respect this information as private, to be used only for this year’s pen pal exchange). In exchange, your child is expected to write an introductory letter that you can photocopy and mail to each of the other children in the group.
Within two weeks of the receipt of these introductory letters, your child will be expected to:
- Reply to the child whose name I have assigned to you. This requirement is to make sure that all the children in the group receive at least one response.
- Reply to at least one other letter of your child’s choosing. Your child can, of course, respond to as many of the letters as he/she likes.
Soon after that, your child should receive their own responses! There are no requirements beyond this initial introduction and response, but it’s my hope that the children will want to continue to correspond with their pen pals.
Here is the time frame of the exchange:
Sept. 10-11: I will send you the contact information of the children in your small group.
Sept. 12-18: Your child should compose their introductory letter and mail it to each of the children in their small group.
Sept. 19-Oct. 3: Your child should receive introductory letters from each of the other children in their group soon. Within two weeks of receipt of these letters, your child should respond to both their assigned partner and at least one other child of their choosing (more if they like!).
If you would like to participate, please send the following information to my email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) by Sept. 9:
- Your child’s first and last name
- Your child’s age
- three things about your child that could connect him/her to a pen pal: hobbies, interests, pets, circumstances, etc.
- three things that your child would like to have in a pen pal: similar age, gender, specific interests, location, etc.
Please send a separate response for each of your children; it will help me keep them organized!
I’ll do my best to put children into small groups that will start them along the path to connecting with each other, and then the rest is up to them!