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The Times
  • Poland, Herkimer second-graders meet their pen pals, enjoy ‘The Polar Express’

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  • POLAND — Second-grade pen pals from the Poland and Herkimer school districts recently got together to meet each other and enjoy a day themed around the story of “The Polar Express.”
    This is the eleventh year Poland teacher Heather Judd and Herkimer teacher Dawn McCumber have paired their second-grade students up as pen pals and the third year they have brought them together before the holidays for “The Polar Express” day.
    Judd said her students were “bouncing off the walls” the day before the event because of their excitement about getting to meet their pen pals.
    “We thought it would be fun to do, and it worked out really well,” Judd said. “They love it.”
    The Herkimer students visited Poland on Dec. 11. Poland students will visit Herkimer near the end of the school year for spring activities.
    Students in each class have been writing letters to their pen pals throughout the school year.
    “It’s something that’s following the curriculum and is fun,” McCumber said.
    ‘Fun to write’
    Students and teachers were allowed to wear their pajamas for “The Polar Express” day. The day included McCumber reading them “The Polar Express,” and they watched “The Polar Express” movie in the afternoon.
    Students also had hot cocoa and cookies and learned how to make a train-shaped snack out of pepperoni, cheese and crackers.
    Based on happenings in the book, students were also asked to determine what they would ask for from Santa Claus if they were going to receive the first gift of Christmas. Students discussed their answers with their pen pals, wrote down their responses and drew and colored pictures of what they would choose.
    Pen pals Tommy Haver, 7, of Poland, and Ben Yerina, 7, of Herkimer, agreed that they would ask for a video game system — with Tommy choosing a Wii and Ben selecting an Xbox.
    In their letters, Tommy and Ben wrote about “Thanksgiving, Christmas, what we like to do, what’s our favorite TV show,” Tommy said.
    “It’s fun to write letters to other people,” he said.
    They both said it was also nice to get to know each other in person.
    “It was fun meeting him,” Ben said.Other than meeting each other, Ben said his favorite parts of the day were “the snacks,” and Tommy said his favorites were “the book and having hot cocoa and cookies.”
    ‘A tradition’
    Judd and McCumber are good friends outside of school, so when they got teaching jobs at different schools, they thought it would be a nice idea to start up the pen pals, and then they added “The Polar Express” to it.
    “It’s a tradition,” McCumber said. “Everybody knows that in second grade we do pen pals.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Having pen pals is a great way for students to learn how to write letters and get to know kids from another school, Judd said.
    “It’s something they look forward to,” she said.
    Sometimes, older students come back to Judd and say they saw their second-grade pen pal while playing a sport, she said.
    Current pen pals Raegan Seymour, 7, of Poland, and Jazzmine Medina, 7, of Herkimer, said they talked in their letters about what they dressed up as for Halloween and about Christmas.
    In response to the Christmas gift question during “The Polar Express” day, Jazzmine chose an iPod, and Raegan chose a rocking horse and an iPad.
    After meeting each other, they started talking in person about their parents, how their sisters are “weird” and how their brothers are “annoying,” they said.
    When asked her favorite part of the day, Jazzmine said “getting to meet her for the first time.” They agreed that meeting each other was a “good” experience.
    Then Jazzmine decided to upgrade her rating of the day.
    “Actually, wonderful,” she said.
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