During the month of April, Avoca West Elementary School third grade teacher Jennifer Stefan and Marie Murphy School sixth grade teacher Andrea Bialk collaborated on a special writing assignment for their students that focused on social/emotional learning and service learning projects. Vicki Specks, the Promoting Alternative Thinking Strategies (PATHS) teacher at Avoca West, concentrated her lessons on helping the students identify similarities and differences and develop an understanding of empathy through learning about the country of Ghana. The students also attended a presentation by Kim Zimmer, a technology teacher at Avoca West, who shared her personal teaching experiences from the summer she spent in Ghana.
All third grade teachers, including Jennifer Stefan, Kelly Lee, Tom Erf and Stephanie Rick, partnered their students with sixth grade buddies at Marie Murphy School to write a creative narrative story. The third grade students created an outline for the sixth grade students to use as they developed their stories. The students at both schools used Google docs to write their stories, which enabled the partners to collaborate easily with each other.
When the students finished editing and revising their stories, the third grade students created the illustrations. The final touches were made when the third grade students took a field trip to Marie Murphy School to meet face-to-face with their writing buddies to create a title page and put their books together. After the student-created books were finished, the students sent them along with donated supplies to students in Ghana through Kids to Kids International (KTKI), a non-profit organization that provides a program for children to send Friendship Boxes of educational supplies and student-created books to children around the world since 1991. Stefan said, “This writing project proved to be a valuable lesson focused on collaboration among the students and also provided them with an opportunity to share with children who are less fortunate.”