Rural meets urban
Calvin education students unite diverse schoolchildren.

Demonica, a fifth-grader at Alexander Elementary School, wrote to her Moline Christian School fourth-grade pen pal:

“Dear Elizabeth, Thank you for sending me your note. I hope you are having fun at your school. I have been going to this school for six years. I love it here! I can’t wait to see you! I hope you and me can be friends until we die!”

Elizabeth wrote back:

Dear Demonica, Thank you for the letter. I really like it. I am going to hang it in my locker. In school we are doing 3-D projects. Are you doing any projects?

Demonica and Elizabeth come from diverse backgrounds, but found a lot in common as elementary school students. Moline (Moline, Mich.) is a rural Christian school with a largely Caucasian population, whereas Alexander (Grand Rapids, Mich.) is an urban public school with a largely African-American population.

Carly Van WyngardenThe pen-pal project was the brainchild of Carly Van Wyngarden, a Calvin student teacher in Ellen Berry’s fourth-grade class at Moline Christian School during the fall of 2005. Van Wyngarden proposed the project to Arden Post, Calvin professor of education, whose reading and language arts classes have been involved with Alexander Elementary for six years.

In December at Alexander Elementary, the Moline fourth-graders joined their Alexander pen pals for a pizza lunch. They then chose among three activities to do with their pen pals: basketball or jumping rope in the gym, a Christmas ornament craft or a computer scavenger hunt, all organized by Calvin education students.

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The education department continues to prepare students to teach in diverse settings

The schools are planning another exchange this spring when the Alexander students will get a chance to see some Moline-area farm animals.

“For children to have positive interactions with those from a diverse background goes a long way to creating positive feelings among different races and ethnicities,” Post said. “There are committees, workshops, in-service sessions, journals, papers, books and ever so much discussion on how to create racial harmony. We think that actually doing something is worth much more.”