In a classroom in Sweden, students are laughing and getting creative as they each contribute to the plot of one collective story. They’ve made up characters, set the scene and suddenly the story stops.
How does it end? They will have to wait to find out.
In a classroom in The Gambia, students open their assignment and anxiously read the beginning of a familiar story. They balance on the edge of their seats and burst into laughter, just as the Swedish children had hoped.
Now it’s their turn to write the next chapter to share back with their Post Pals.
How does the story end? Only their imaginations will tell.
Thanks to ChildFund Sweden (Barnfonden) and Posten (the Swedish postal service), these groups of children are able to connect with one another through the program, Post Pals.
Post Pals is a classroom-based pen pal program that matches classrooms in Sweden with children in ChildFund-supported classes in The Gambia, Ethiopia, India, Philippines, Uganda and Zambia.
Beyond letter writing, the program encourages the cultural exchange and enhancement of classrooms for children ages 8 to 12 through curriculum-based assignments.
“Post Pals has given us the opportunity to express ourselves on what we want to become,” says one student from Uganda.
“Now we know about Sweden,” says another student from India.
Unlike most letter exchange programs, Post Pals focuses on encouraging classrooms to focus their letter-writing activities around educational learning opportunities such as biology, history and literature.
In Uganda, teachers base many of their lesson plans on the Swedish curriculum with topics that include geography, creative writing, home economics and sports among others.
To connect with children in The Gambia, Swedish children will exchange a fourth grade history assignment by compiling photos, drawings and stories of their own country’s history to share with their Gambian counterparts.
The Gambian classes then answer the same questions for the same time period. Not only will both classrooms learn about one another, but they also will each gain an understanding of their historical similarities and differences.
From an academic program perspective, Post Pals improves reading, writing, analytical and self-expression skills. Because it’s integrated into the classroom, the program infuses excitement and creativity with learning.
But for these children, Post Pals also allows the chance for expression — the chance to share their own voice and perspective in exciting new ways. The joy they find in art, writing, photography and song now holds even more meaning.
“People of Sweden are different, but their children have thoughts like ours, and they also prepare the same type of drawings and letters like us, including ones of their family and pictures of their house,” says a student from India.
Not only are they learning, they are becoming increasingly confident.
“The program has always supplemented the curriculum learning by engaging our children in various activities that enhance their reading and writing skills,” says a teacher from India.
“All of which will be useful in the overall development of these children.”