Pals to Meet Face to Face at Smith
now, they know a bit about each other, though they’ve
When more than 120 students from
the Morgan Elementary School in Holyoke, and Conway Grammar
School in Conway, Mass. meet at Smith on Tuesday, Nov. 21,
they’ll get to know each other better.
The students -- second-graders
in Holyoke, and second-, third- and sixth-graders in Conway
-- began a yearlong pen pal correspondence this fall.
They will meet for the first
time over lunch in the Campus Center Carroll Room. After,
the kids will split up for tours of the Museum of Art, the
Botanic Garden and Lyman Conservatory, and Neilson Library.
The pen pal program, now in its
third year, exposes kids from urban Holyoke to their rural
counterparts in small-town Conway, located about 25 miles
north of Northampton, and vice versa.
An annual meeting of the kids
was the idea of the husband-wife teaching team of Rick Gifford,
who teaches sixth grade in Conway, and Rebecca Allessi, a
second-grade teacher in Holyoke.
“These kids’ backgrounds
are so different,” says Margaret Bartley, a teacher
of second grade at Morgan Elementary, who helps with the program
and will accompany the kids on Tuesday. “Both groups
of students should have a lot to share with each other.”
In the past, Bartley says, the
two groups of students have exchanged letters during the year,
then met their pen pals at the end of the year. “This
year, we thought, wouldn’t it be great if they could
meet at the beginning of the year so they could have someone
to talk to” for the rest of the program, she said.
It’s their first time meeting
“We thought Smith would
be the ideal place to meet, and it would give the children
an opportunity to experience college life,” said Bartley.
“We want to open doors to as many children as possible.”
For those at Smith who will guide
the kids’ tours, it’s a familiar event.
“The art museum hosts school
groups of varying ages almost every weekday,” says Julie
Zappia, associate curator of education at the Museum of Art.
“The Botanic Garden also hosts school kids.”
In addition, Smith, through the
Office of Educational Outreach, coordinates several educational
programs for students in the region throughout the year.
But for these elementary students
from Holyoke and Conway, their visit to Smith will be anything
“For our kids, they don’t
really understand the concept of college yet,” says
Bartley. “They will be so amazed by the size of the
library, to see so many books, to see the research area. Some
of them will remember this for the rest of their lives. Maybe
some of them will be inspired to go to college.”