Decorah Middle School sixth grade students have been writing to pen pals from India, Italy, Greece, and China through their social studies classes taught by Lisa Witzke and Kelly Farley. Recently these students participated in Zoom meetings with their pen pals. They shared how they are living with COVID-19, the activities they are involved in, what they are missing during this time, and ended by sharing something special in a “show and tell” fashion.
Lisa Witzke remarked, “We learned so much from each other. This work complements our studies of these regions we learn about in social studies. The sessions were so heartwarming, personal, and hands-on.” Kelly Farley added, This experience moved me, and I felt so inspired by our young people both here and across the world. What a joyful opportunity!”
The students were equally excited to connect with their pen pals through Zoom. Nora Lesmeister shared this: “Today I zoomed pals from India! On Thursday (April 30) I zoomed pals from Greece! And on Friday (May 1) I zoomed my pals from Italy! It was super fun to hear their accents and what has been happening at home for them and what they do in their free time, which they have a lot of. I was pleasantly surprised by how good they were at English, and they are all very polite and very artistic! I also shared my experience at home and how quarantine has changed my life.”
“I loved the experience of talking to people from different countries. I participated in the Zoom meetings with the people from Greece and India, and that meant a lot to me just to be able to hear their voices and see how COVID-19 has affected their lives. I’m so thankful that our social studies teacher gave us this opportunity. It was a great learning experience,” added Lauren Holthaus.
Danika Mueller reflected on what it meant to connect with her new friend from India in this way: “It was such a fun and all-around culture experience. Now I have her phone number, and I can talk to her all the time because of it! I am so glad to have been given this once in a lifetime opportunity!”
For both the students and the teachers, connecting through Zoom was definitely meaningful and enjoyable, especially during this time of learning at home. Teachers Lisa Witzke and Kelly Farley are grateful for the support and assistance of principal Justin Albers and Director of Information, Systems, & Instructional Technology Kurt DeVore who helped make this experience a reality.