A donated book that traveled halfway across the world provided an intercultural experience for The Meadowbrook School’s third grade class and the students at The RuiFeng Elementary School in Taiwan.
The journey began about two years ago when now third grader Audrey Kretschman donated “Wild Animal Baby” among other books to her church in Glenside, PA. Her name and address was printed on the inside cover.
It wasn’t until spring break of this year that she learned where her book ended up. That is when she received a handwritten letter from Belinda Wang, a teacher who found the book in a second-hand book store in Taiwan.
Wang wrote to express her gratitude for the book. She had been searching for literature to expose her third grade students to the English language. She included some information about herself, her email address and asked to learn more about Kretschman.
Kretschman told her teacher about the letter and they decided to respond to Wang’s questions as a class.
“One of the wonderful things that it’s really opened up for the children is the appreciation of other cultures,” said Kelly Mosteller, a third grade teacher at The Meadowbrook School. “We’ve been able to compare and contrast their lives to our lives in America.”
She said technology was an instrumental component of the experience because the students are able to pull up the email on the smart board in their classroom. She also noted that emailing speeds up the process — Kretschman received the letter Wang sent her two weeks after it was postmarked.
Chestnut Hill resident and third grader Will Stutman said he has enjoyed learning the favorite foods, animals and colors of the Taiwanese students.
He said they traditionally eat noodles, chicken and pork and their favorite foods are American foods such as hamburgers and hotdogs. He was also surprised to learn that they celebrate Halloween and Christmas at their schools. He described the pen-pal exchange as “extraordinary.”
“It’s really remarkable that people are so interconnected…we just don’t think ahead about the way our goods can be sent around the world and impact somebody somewhere else,” said Laura Keim, Stutman’s mother.
School has wrapped up for the year but Mosteller would like to continue the correspondence next year by including the entire school in the exchange. She would also like the students to send some writing samples and artwork to the students in Taiwan.
“We can learn so much more and I think the biggest thing is that the kids can relate to the culture finding out more similarities or other differences and that appreciation for that culture,” said Mosteller.