Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Pen Pal Program Matches Special Ed. Students with Nursing Home Seniors

Even if they don’t realize it, the special education students in Janice Blaine’s sixth- and seventh-grade class at Fernwood Middle School are excited about learning. With the help of reading specialist Doris Whetstine, Blaine’s students have been exchanging letters with seniors at the Seacrest Village Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Little Egg Harbor and couldn’t be more enthusiastic about it.

“Being pen pals makes me really feel special and makes me happy,” said 11-year-old Tristian Carter with a smile on his face.

“Whether they know it or not, they’re learning,” Blaine said.

The partnership began in November when Whetstine was reading a story to the students about volunteering. The class started to talk about community service, and Whetstine mentioned that she routinely visited Seacrest Village with her therapy dog.

Once the students heard what Whetstine did, they started to get excited about volunteering or doing something to help brighten the lives of people like the residents at Seacrest. A few days later, the class started to learn letter writing skills.

“All of the sudden this light bulb went off in my head,” Whetstine said.

“We thought to make letter writing interesting for the kids and personalized to them, maybe we can write pen pal letters,” said Blaine.

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