Home Our Diocese For Holy Angels School fourth-graders, learning about other states is in the...

For Holy Angels School fourth-graders, learning about other states is in the cards

Carriann Van Dzura, a fourth-grade teacher at Holy Angels School in Newark, shows off the postcards her students have received thus far from schools in other states. She is holding the postcard her class sent out. (Dialog photo/Mike Lang)

NEWARK — There aren’t too many people, especially those who have never known a world without email, who anticipate the arriving snail mail each day. But the fourth grade at Holy Angels School in Newark does exactly that, waiting to see if anything has arrived for them.

The class is involved in a nationwide postcard exchange with a school in each of the other 49 states. As of the second week of January, they had heard back from 19 states.

“Every day the kids say, ‘Did you get any mail? Did we get any mail?’ So that day, a kid takes a turn reading about that state. We kind of talk about it. It’s kind of fun when the kids talk about things that aren’t about school,” Van Dzura said recently.

The idea originated last summer with a group of teachers who are members of a Facebook group. They secured a commitment from a school in each state, then got to work.

“I had them go up to the board and write facts they know about Delaware or things they think other fourth-graders would want to know about Delaware. Then I gave them some facts,” she said.

They included history, such as Delaware being the first state to ratify the Constitution, and fun things, like being close to the beach. The teacher typed the responses up and taped a copy of that to each postcard going out.

“We got all of ours mailed out quick,” Van Dzura said.

They started at the end of September. Within a few weeks, the postcards started arriving. The school has been receiving one a week, sometimes two. When the postcards arrive, they are taped to a wall around a map of the country, and that state is marked off the map. Van Dzura expects the pace to pick up as the school year progresses. The teachers are holding each other to their commitments.

“A lot of people said, ‘We’re just waiting to get to the social studies unit,” she said.

The reaction when the postcards arrive has been one of Van Dzura’s favorite parts about the exchange.

“It’s cool to hear the kids say, ‘Oh, I’ve been there,’” she said. “They’re really looking forward to Alaska.”

The project is not being graded, and students were not required to take part. Van Dzura’s homeroom includes 13 students, but all 27 fourth-graders were invited to participate. She wants to do the exchange again next year but is thinking about expanding it to two or more schools per state.