Students at Brown Station Elementary in Gaithersburg are taking a modern twist to an old pen pal tradition.
The students, all about nine or ten years old, are making new friends across the Atlantic Ocean with a little help from modern technology.
Instead of taking pen to paper and using snail mail, these international pen pals send emails to a group of students in Torgau, Germany. Ines Kuperberg, the parent of a student at Brown Station, started the pen pal program with her son’s school and a school in her hometown of Torgau, Germany.
Ten Brown Station students in teacher Nabby Cheung’s fourth grade class, regularly send emails in English to several Torgau students.
“We started with keeping it very simple,” Cheung said, since the Torgau students were just beginning to learn English.
When they started in October, they wrote back and forth about how old they are, where they live and what their favorite color is, she said. Now that the Torgau students know more English vocabulary, they write about sports, video games and music.
“It teaches the kids to have a specific purpose for writing,” Cheung said. “They know who their audience is, they’re writing with specific vocabulary in mind.”
Kuperberg said she had a similar program when she moved from Germany to Arizona eight years ago. Kuperberg and her family now live in Boyds, but one of the students the Brown Station pen pals write to is her nephew.
The Gaithersburg students “are English teachers to students in Germany,” she said.
The students write to each other every week, she said, and have exchanged around five or six email letters so far.
Cheung said it’s the first time she’s had students take part in a pen pal program, and it’s gotten a good start.
“I could see something like this happening even within the school,” Cheung said, “but it’s cooler because it’s going to somebody real, across the ocean.”
Kuperberg and Cheung are planning to send a holiday package, with American gifts selected by Brown Station students, to Torgau this week.