Introducing elementary schoolers to VCU
Pen pals event combines literature with food, a short tour
Fifteen fifth-grade students from Barack Obama Elementary School in Richmond met their VCU School of Education pen pals recently as part of professor Lisa Cipolletti’s Children’s Literature service learning course.
The undergraduate course is required as part of the school’s Master of Teaching program. It is designed to give students a greater appreciation of children's literature while providing them with an opportunity to make an impact in the Richmond community.
As part of the course, SOE students begin corresponding with an assigned “writing partner” from Obama Elementary at the beginning of each semester. The most recent correspondence began in January. Partners met in person on April 26.
That day, group activities included a tour of The Workshop’s Makerspace area in the lower level of James Branch Cabell Library, and students saw examples of hands-on opportunities where faculty, staff and students can explore new and emerging technologies. A favorite of the elementary students was the gaming studio, where users can play – and even edit and create – their own virtual reality games.
After stopping for a snack at the Shafer Court Dining Center, the pen pals returned to Oliver Hall for a Skype visit with children’s book author Josh Funk. He’s the author of “Dear Dragon” – a story about two pen pals who write to each other without knowing that one of them is a dragon. The elementary schoolers asked Funk questions about writing, how he comes up with story ideas, and how his books get published.
Both the Makerspace tour and the Skype visit were new additions to the pen pals event.
“We met Josh Funk after he presented at the Virginia State Reading Association annual conference in Norfolk last March. When Laurie Duncan (Title I reading specialist at Obama Elementary) and I told him that we used his book, “Dear Dragon,” to kick off our pen pal correspondence, he agreed to Skype with our students,” Cipolletti explained.
“We continue to explore new ways to expose students visiting our campus to the wide variety of opportunities across VCU. The Makerspace tour, for example, was a great way to demonstrate the creative opportunities we offer for hands-on exploration,” she said.