Bridges can be built from letters as well as from books, as the initiative of a teacher in Potsdam (near Berlin) has shown. Through BOOKBRIDGE, she initiated a penpal exchange between her own students and students in Mongolia.
Last year we received an inquiry from a teacher in Potsdam. She was looking for contacts in Mongolia in order to start an international penpal exchange between her own students and students in another country. Through our project in Mongolia, we found a school class interested in the exchange. Despite the cultural differences and the long postal trip to Mongolia, the project was a huge success. The teacher reported:
“Last Monday, the answers to our letters arrived at the school. The excitement was high. I had been a bit worried that after the long waiting time, the students’ interest would have dwindled to nothing. Not a chance! Apparently, real, hand-written letters on paper with photos and little drawings excite their recipients as much as ever. Friends in the class read their letters to each other out loud and helped each other to „decipher“ and translate. In a few cases, there were suggestions about what and how to reply. I hope very much that many will continue the exchange further.”
For school classes planning a similar project, the teacher provides the following tips:
“1. I would recommend beginning the exchange in the 4th or 5th school class. For the 6th class in Germany, after which in many cases the students will leave for another school, it’s already too late to establish and maintain such contacts.
2. Students should absolutely write “real” letters. The value of the letters consists in their being graspable and palpable. That starts with an envelope and real postal stamps, includes handwriting and little drawings, and ends with celebration (you’ll hardly believe it!) at the sight of family photos with dog and Yurt in the background.
3. I hope very much that most of my students will continue to maintain contact with their penpal, even after they leave our school.
4. …for me, a teacher-student relationship that has grown in trust is an important foundation for this kind of project. Developing this relationship takes time.
Thank you for listening to and supporting my ideas!”