March 18, 2014
By Tara Cavanaugh
When Mary Chatigny’s second grade class sent letters to service members in the U.S. military around the winter holidays, they didn’t exactly anticipate a response.
“I told my students that we might not hear back,” Chatigny said. “We’re not doing this for any kind of response, we’re really just showing our appreciation and gratitude in our writing.”
So the class was thrilled to get a video response, available below, from Army soldiers in El Paso, Texas last month. In the video, the soldiers answer some students’ questions posed in their letters, show students places and equipment on the base, and express thanks for the letters.
The students wrote to soldiers based in El Paso, Atlanta, Alexandria, Va.; Fort Benning, Ga., and at the McCord-Ft. Louis base in Washington state. The students also wrote to Marines based in Okinawa, Japan.
“I think what showed up most in their letters was the basic human connection. They asked: Do you miss your family? My birthday is on this day, when is yours? What’s your favorite color? It was really simple, but it was something anyone could relate to, and I think it’s funny how kids naturally entered those kind of topics into their writing.
“A lot of the letters were also filled with: Are you scared, Are you worried? They had it in mind because there are still soldiers being sent to Afghanistan and all over the world, really. I think kids could really grasp that uncertainty of where your life is going to take you.”
This is the first year that Chatigny has done this kind of writing exercise with her students. She connected students with service members through her own friends and acquaintances, and she would like to reach even more military bases next year.
This kind of writing exercise “gets my students right away,” Chatigny said. “Even with kids who tend to hesitate to start writing, they don’t hesitate with this.”