At the beginning of the school year, each second grader in Fisher and Barringer Road elementary schools was assigned a student in the opposite school with whom to correspond. The students finally had the opportunity to meet and share a day together on Monday, June 15 at Fisher Elementary.
The day was filled with educational, fun and team building activities. Pen pal duos traveled from station to station throughout the school.
In one half of the gym, Utica Zoo Education Assistant Nicolette Joaquin and Staff Volunteer Stephanie Kupiec introduced students to five of the zoo’s residents: a White’s Tree Frog from Australia, a Ball Python from Africa, a Four-Toed Hedgehog from Africa and two Indian Runner Ducks from the West Indies. The zoo staff described the animals, their habitats, diets and general care and answered student questions.
In the other half of the gym, Senseis (Japanese word for teachers) Tom Arcuri and Brandon Benenati of Bailey’s Karate School in Rome spoke to students about self-confidence, bullying, self-discipline and practice to reach a goal. Benenati demonstrated his kata, a carefully choreographed series of precise moves. Arcuri asked students how long they thought it took Sensei Benenati to master the routine. Students responded with answers ranging from weeks to two years—it took two years.
Out on the playground, students took time to burn off a little energy after sitting for presentations and projects.
Back in the classroom, each pen pal pair completed a joint art project to serve as a reminder of their year corresponding and the day spent together. Each student painted one hand with bright red paint and pressed a handprint on a sandy beach background. The second repeated the process with the opposite hand and created a mirror image on the same page. The prints, joined at the palms resembled a red crab on the beach. The glued googly eyes on each thumb to finish the work.
The pen pal project taught the students to communicate and develop a friendly relationship through their letters back and forth. This helps pave the way for the day they will all join into a single class as fifth graders in Jarvis Middle School.