Hampton Lutheran fifth and sixth grade students had a chance to connect with a student in China through a letter exchange.
The letter exchange was facilitated by Mary Carnoali. Mary Carnoali has been teaching Spanish at HLS once a week for kindergarten through sixth grade since September 2018. She teaches English as a foreign language online to students in China.
The opportunity to connect the two groups of students came through one of Mary’s Chinese students, Deer. Deer is a 12-year-old student from Wuxi (pronounced woo-shi), China, who has been Mary’s student since June 2018. Deer is her chosen English name; she chose it because she is a fast runner. Mary teaches English as a foreign language lessons to Deer once a week.
In a recent English lesson, Mary and Deer were reading the story “Dear Juno” by Soyung Pak, which is about a boy who tries to communicate with his grandmother through letter, even though they don’t speak the same language. They talked about how difficult it can be to connect with people if there’s a language barrier and what people can do to get to know people in other countries.
Deer wrote a letter to Hampton Lutheran School as a homework assignment to practice communicating with people from a different background than her.
“Deer was very excited to write a letter to the kids at HLS,” Mary Carnoali said. “Hampton is such a different environment from Wuxi, which has about 3.5 million people and isn’t even considered a big city in China. A lot of the assumptions that she has about life are completely different from the assumptions that the HLS kids have. I’m curious to see how they connect with each other.”
This week, the fifth and sixth grade students responded to Deer’s letter with an information packet about Nebraska and a letter from the students.
The HLS students were excited to receive Deer’s letter. The kids started their part of the letter and kept finding more and more information to add. They added some pictures that could tell Deer about our culture. They were curious as to why she had chosen the English name Deer. Mrs. Jean Carnoali and her fifth and sixth grade class talked about the fact that in China, names take on a greater meaning than in the United States.
Hampton Lutheran students wrote one letter that Mary will send on to Deer via email. One of our students asked how long it would take the letter to reach Deer. The kids were a little surprised to hear that it would take about one minute, but then, not surprised at all. Mrs. Carnoali had a conversation with the students about how long a letter would take through traditional mail and then the wonders of technology. The class did some research on Deer’s city of Wuxi, China, and talked about the differences in culture.
The letter exchange ties in with a fifth and sixth grade unit on writing letters. The class wrote letters to a soldier the other day and talked about the proper formation of the letter. That’s a little bit of a lost art anymore, so practical opportunities are great! This has been a week of writing letters! It’s all been rather fortuitous, but sometimes that’s the best kind of learning.
HLS does not often have the opportunity to exchange letters with students in other countries. But with Mary as an intermediary and with the instantaneousness of email, HLS has high hopes that we can continue to communicate with Deer.
“I think that learning about other cultures is vital to education,” Jean Carnoali said. “It’s interesting to know that our culture here in Nebraska is just as unique to others as Deer’s is to us. We are a very small part of a very big world.”