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Reviving the art of letter writing

Opaki school students [clockwise from left] India Bartlett, Jory Clark, Sam Bunny and Charlie Day write to their elderly pen pals.

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Opaki School students who set out to improve their letter writing skills have forged some unlikely friendships in the process.

Year 5 and 6 teachers Nicki Bramwell-Cooke and Lizzy McGovern were discussing the next writing project for their 52 students in the Kahure syndicate when Bramwell-Cooke remembered an idea suggested to her a year earlier.

“My sister was living in England and she sent me a link about a school which started writing pen pal letters and it was something I really wanted to do,” Bramwell-Cooke said.

The project quickly took off, with the students writing to residents at three different retirement homes in Masterton.

One student’s pen pal is a 95-year-old woman who was in the Royal Air Force. Another student had a pen pal who was turning 90 years old which led some of the students to make him a birthday card.

The project had taught the students many things – formal letter writing and how to write an address but also the art of patience.

“They have learned an appreciation for the elderly as it has taken a while to get responses,” Bramwell-Cooke said.

But it didn’t deter the students, who would run out to the letterbox every day.

“The kids have loved it, they’ve been lining up to get the mail,” McGovern said.

One of the biggest things the students enjoyed was finding similarities and differences between their pen pals’ eras and their own, with one student “chuffed” to find out they shared the same favourite animal with their pen pal.

The students were slowly learning how to decipher the hard-to-read handwriting, with most having received two letters back from their pen pals so far.

McGovern said the experience had also encouraged some of the kids to write to their aunties, uncles and grandparents. The students were looking forward to hosting a special assembly at the school on November 8 when they will meet their pen pals for the first time.

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