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the following article is posted with permission from Union Times.  The full story is online at: https://www.hometownsource.com/union_times/news/education/pen-pals-unite-at-milaca-elementary/article_c93ac2c8-5eb4-11e8-b550-4b7644ba7215.html


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Pen pals unite at Milaca Elementary

Second graders, assisted living residents meet for the first time

SHANE CARLSON
Union-Times

Erica Reiners teaches second grade at Milaca Elementary School, and this spring, her class took part in a unique writing activity with local seniors at the Country Meadows assisted living facility in Milaca.

Since February, Reiners’ second-grade students have been corresponding with assisted living residents through letters in the mail as pen pals, writing letters every
two weeks. The goal of the activity, Reiners said, was for the students to work on their writing in a creative way and to start to understand the format of what a letter should look like.

Halle Bolduc is the director of life enrichment at Country Meadows and reached
out to Reiners about her interest in the project, as Bolduc has worked with other teachers and schools in the past. Reiners responded with a resounding “yes” and  the  project was  off and running.

Bolduc helped  pair the pen pals together based on the initial letters the students wrote to the residents.  One of the pairings was just meant  to happen:

“They both  had the same name and the same birthday,” so they were automatically a match,  Bolduc said.

Reiners was eager to provide a platform for her students to have a lot of fun and take a break from some of the more regulated writing projects her class has been working on.
Throughout the last few months, the pen pals got to know each other through their writing a little more with each letter, and it finally led to getting to meet each other.

Last Monday, the pen pals united for the first time in Reiners’ classroom.

“The kids are super excited to have them come in today,” Reiners said.

They all had been anticipating that day.

“I didn’t have to remind them what today was,” she added.

The students all waited patiently on Monday afternoon, with cookies, water and iced tea prepared for their special guests. The residents were met with smiles and adoration when they entered the classroom and met their pen pals in person for the
first time. They were each presented with a gift from the students: a cup of soil and grass the students had planted.

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After introductions were made, everyone moved outside into the courtyard, where the students entertained the residents by reading them some of the stories they had written. After they had finished reading, many students shared stories with their resident about what it’s like to be in second grade and ended the afternoon with a
friendly game of cards.

Anna Swedin, a resident at Country Meadows, saidof the experience: “These kids do a darn good job. They must do a lot of reading.”

Not only did Anna Tye share her first name and birthday with Swedin, she also shared the same feelings about the project and said with a smile, “I liked all of it.”

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Second-grader Katelyn Kruse was also paired up with Swedin and thoroughly enjoyed having a pen pal.

“It was awesome,” she said.

Reiners said she was impressed by the creativity of the questions the students came up with to ask the residents.

“They’re all really interested to see if the residents have any grandchildren,” she said.

Some of the residents responded to the students in cursive handwriting, which was a new experience for them.

“Many of them have  never even seen cursive before, so I helped them read what it said,” Reiners said.

For the residents and the students alike, it was much more than just a writing exercise.

“A lot of the residents like to hang them on their fridge,” Bolduc said. “It’s something they will all remember for a long time.”

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