SCHERERVILLE | Students at St. Michael School are reaching out to others across the world through a pen pal program, sharing their respective cultures.
Technology coordinator Brenda Tovsen established the program this school year. She said the ePALS program connects 4.5 million students and teachers in 191 countries for teacher-designed cross-cultural and interactive projects.
Classrooms use monitored email, language translation, discussion boards, maps and more to work and learn together.
Tovsen said, "We find a partner classroom and collaborate on school projects, practice foreign language skills and establish international friendships."
She said eighth-graders correspond with epals in Norway. The students talked about the presidential election and immigration to the United States and to Norway. "Some discussions were quite interesting," Tovsen said.
The seventh-grade class uses epals to correspond with students in Turkey and India. "Our students and their students are learning about different holidays and festivals and how we celebrate them. Different food is also a big topic as well as different school subjects," Tovsen said.
The sixth-graders correspond with students in Mexico and Russia. "Our Mexico friends sent us a video about how they celebrate the Day of the Dead. We've been talking a lot about Christmas and our different traditions," Tovsen said.
The students will use Skype in January and February to talk live to their new friends.
All students are learning about family life, school life, elections and government in their countries, and they also talk about movies and music, Tovsen said. Students in all classes are realizing how much alike we all are across the world, she said.
Eighth-grader Kelly Orze said she is enjoying the experience. Orze is also a member of the school's St. Michael School Vision news team, which broadcasts the school news every Friday morning. In their news reports, the eighth-grade anchors share stories and international news from their ePALS.
Orze said she enjoyed talking to students from Norway about the election, immigration and the holidays.