For the price of a postage stamp, Constantine Eastside Elementary School student “Darian” Tyler was put in touch with “Darien,” Connecticut.
Students hunt for a city in the U.S. whose name is the same as either their first or last name to write to.
It is called the Namesake City project, the idea of two retired teachers, Carol Baker and Terry Steward.
Tyler received a handmade book from the Darien Library, postcards, a tote bag and mug for both he and his teacher, and Darien, Ct. pencils for the whole class.
“I told them about our community,” Tyler said. “We have two stop lights, it’s the Seed Corn Capital of the World and it used to be called Meek’s Mill,” he grinned.
Tyler is a 2nd grader in Nathan Schuler’s class. Schuler has used the Namesake City project in his class for two years. It began right after spring break this year. A map with each student’s name and a Namesake City is posted in the display case in the hallway. The letters students receive are pinned to the map.
“The kids did this as a letter writing review, but the main focus if this project was our social studies curriculum which is all about the local community,” Schuler said. “Students put facts they learned into their letters.”
Schuler encloses a letter explaining the project with each letter students send. He said students show more interest when they must share information about Constantine. When they receive a response they compare towns.
“The kids love receiving mail from ‘far, far away.’ It really opens their eyes to communities and cultures from places outside of the ‘Constantine bubble,’” he said.
One interesting response was from Box Elder, Montana, home to a native American reservation. They sent a homemade dream catcher and tribal jewelry.
“Two other students received letters from an entire 2nd grade class in Phoenix, Arizona and also a class in Preston, Iowa,” Schuler said.
“My students have pen pals from that experience.”
“Every day that we get a letter or package in the mail the kids get super excited. They can’t wait to see who it is for. It is the highlight of our day.”
The whole class gathers around the teacher who opens the letter or package. The teacher reads, displays and discusses it before the student can take possession of it.
Schuler has 24 students and over half have received responses. “We are hoping that others will come before June 1st, the end of the year,” he said.
Charlee Balcom is one of the students who has not received a response yet. “Yes, I’m still waiting, but I don’t mind. It’s fun when someone else gets something. I’m glad,” she said.
Darian Tyler added, “It’s nice to receive a letter. It’s really amazing.”
Source: Story and photo contributed by Angie Birdsall.