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Local Schoolchildren meet their Trent University Penpals

Sixteen classes of primary schoolchildren arrived by the busload at Trent September 24

A record number of primary schoolchildren were matched with Trent University students as part of the annual Trent Penpal Program, launched September 24 at 9:30 a.m. at Trent University's athletic field.

On Friday, 16 classes from Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board schools met their Trent penpals, who are undergraduate arts and science students as well as teacher candidates in Trent's Bachelor of Education program. The penpal pairs took part in a scavenger hunt at the Symons Campus and met back at the Athletics Complex at 10:30 a.m. for snacks. The pairs also gathered on the athletic field to form a more than 600-person circle.

The pupils are in grades one through three at Otonabee Valley, Keith Wightman, Roger Neilsen and Curve Lake First Nations schools. In several of these schools, all classrooms in the primary division are participating in the program, which will continue on throughout the year. Every month the schoolchildren write a letter as well as receive one from a Trent University student.

The primary teachers incorporate the penpal correspondence as part of their Language Arts program and say nothing parallels this motivation to read and write.

"The program keeps meaningful communication, human relationship, and an ethic of caring at the heart of literacy," says Dr. Deborah Berrill, director, Trent's School of Education and Professional Learning. "We can't think of a finer motivation than to write to a person who is your very own special penpal and in the case of this program, the relationship goes both ways. We know that the connection with children centres many of our University students, particularly with the knowledge that they are supporting a child in learning to read and write."

Teachers report that by getting to the campus and developing a relationship with a University student, the children see their own potential differently and often start talking about how they plan to go to university someday, says Prof. Berrill.

"We deeply value our strong, multi-faceted partnership with the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board and as we unite schoolchildren and University students as part of the Penpal Program, we are supporting literacy development together."

Posted September 27, 2004

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Last Updated October 12, 2004