Fifth-graders in Janice Hoyt's and Alan Ammann's classes at Julia Randall Elementary School have been making new friends across the Atlantic in Germany.
"I'm excited and I can't wait to write her again," said Brittany Robles of her pen pal, whose dream job is to be a veterinarian. Robles said she doesn't know what her dream job is yet.
Hoyt has had the first article on the pen pal project from Torgau, Germany's local newspaper on her bulletin board for several months. Students recognized a few words, but Ines Kuperberg, the woman who came to the teachers with the idea for the pen pal program, had to translate it.
Torgau Northwest Middle School students (sixth and seventh graders) of Anita Richter's class didn't know where Payson, Ariz. was. Now they do, thanks to a pen pal program started by Richter's former student Ines Kuperberg.
Richter's students have sent their first letters back to Payson, and now the German students are waiting in great anticipation for answers from Payson and dreaming of visiting their new letter friends one day.
Hoyt's students had a range of questions:
Parents of students who cut school in Germany must pay a fine.
"Even if they are sick?" asked one of Hoyt's students. "No, not if they are sick," said Kuperberg.
She explained that letters were handled similarly in Germany as in the United States. "How long does it take to fly to Germany?" one student asked.
"A day," she said.
Several students asked if their names would change in the German language. "Blake" would be the same according to Kuperberg, while "Stephanie" would be a different pronunciation. The "a" would be pronounced with more of an "au" sound.
She told about the many castles in Germany, promising to find a picture of King Ludwig's to show them another day.
There is no Thanksgiving in Germany and Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24, she said.
"Like you live in Arizona, I lived in Saxony," she said, launching into a little geography lesson.
Although the students were full of questions and listened to her answers, what they were really excited about was getting the letters from their pen pals.
"She's good at drawing," said Caleb Wood of his pen pal, Anelia Kesler, who drew a flower with her letter and included a picture of her favorite band, clipped from a magazine.
Like many others, Andre Schellenberg sent pen pal Katie McCorgary photos of himself and his dog and rabbit. Her other pen pal, Oskar Mietu, sent pictures of his family. McCorgary plans to send them photos of her and her dog Herbie when she answers their questions.
"I want to know what his hobbies are," said McCorgary, who likes to jump on the trampoline.
Ammann's students did research and discovered it would cost $18,000 for the class to fly to Germany. Even so, a few children said they dream of one day meeting their pen pals face to face.
"I think there are a lot of (benefits to having a pen pal program), but improving their English is the most important of all," wrote Richter in an e-mail to the Roundup. "It is very hard to study English. The grammar is different to our German one and the students have to learn a lot of new words. I think they will do much better after reading the letters and writing answers."
Another article on "pan-pal-projekt" authored by Franziska Kremtz for the Torgauer Zeitung newspaper in Germany on Jan. 7, 2006 may be found at torgauerzeitung.com.
Several home schoolers are involved in the pen pal program, and Kuperberg said she is delighted to expand the program with other teachers. Her number is (928) 468-0289.