Students at P.E. McGibbon school are learning about the power of a handwritten letter, thanks to a pair of Sarnia sisters who launched a pen pal program on opposite sides of the ocean.
Sarah Hayter, 23, is attending the University in Glasgow in Scotland with hopes to become a teacher, while her sister Nikki, 21, is a co-op student helping out at P.E. McGibbon.
During her six-week placement in a classroom at Battlefield Primary School, Sarah Hayter was in charge of creating a literary lesson for her students.
“I wanted to teach them about letter writing,” said Hayter. “So we decided that my class would write letters to Nikki’s class.
“I remember learning about pen pals when I was in school, and I thought it would be a great experience for them.”
So the Battlefield students began writing letters — describing their 103-old school, what they were studying (dinosaurs), how they celebrate Christmas and more. They also asked their Canadian friends about culture, education, and their families.
“Even when I got there, they didn’t know much about Canada,” said Hayter, who had her students make Canadian flags and taste maple syrup. “I wanted them to get a sense of where I come from, and learn more about the kids in Canada.”
It took a week for the letters to arrive in Sarnia, along with a video with greetings from the Battlefield students.
“They’re already calling them ‘our friends from Scotland,’” Nikki Hayter said of the Grade 3 kids in Mrs. Randall and Ms. Gartley’s class. “They’ve watched the video a few times.”
Nikki Hayter helped the students write their responses, describing their school, what they’re studying (Ontario) and how they celebrate Christmas.
The Hayter sisters were able to exchange the letters while Sarah was home for the holidays, are they’re now on route with her back to Glasgow.
“They’re really excited to hear back,” she said.
And while technology seems to be everywhere these days, Nikki Hayter said it was rewarding to see the kids get excited about putting pencil to paper.
“It’s like they made a relationship right away,” she said. “Just through sending the letters.”