Each Monday for the past six weeks, sixth-grade students at Deerpark Middle School have logged onto Pen Pal Schools, a web-based learning program, to share and learn about issues at the center of the 2016 U.S. presidential election with their student pen pals.
Corresponding with pen pals gives students access to connect, share and learn with other students across the U.S.
“The pen pals project allows students the opportunity to develop reading, writing and collaboration skills while applying critical thinking about current political topics,” said Holly Pazos, Deerpark social studies teacher. “Students who have never left the Austin area are able to communicate and spend time with peers all over the country.”
After beginning with a short video to set topic goals and expectations, students read an article then share perspectives with their student pen pal. The lessons, aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, focus on the candidates’ policy issues regarding education, the economy, immigration, healthcare, energy and the environment, with the final week of the program concluding with the results of the election.
“It’s really fun. I get to hear about people’s decisions from across the country,” said Luke Svoboda, sixth-grade Deerpark student. “Both my pen pals think Hillary is going to win.”
The pen pals project aligns with the District’s Strategic Plan goals to develop innovative teaching and learning models, use integrated technology to create real-world experiences in the classroom and provide opportunities that eliminate disparities in expectations or achievement amongst our students.
“It has been inspiring to see students think so deeply about topics that many adults don’t even understand,” Pazos said.
Watch Deerpark students on KEYE-TV news share their experience participating in the Pen Pals Schools program.