, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 16, 2013

A viral lesson plan

Elementary students' call for postcards travels across the globe

Social media and the generosity of people around the world have made a social studies project come alive for fourth-graders in David Williams’ classroom at Newbury Elementary School.

Every year, Williams asks his students to bring in postcards as part of their study of the different regions of the country. He said he uses the postcards as tools to help his students understand the diversity that exists within the nation and the nuances between its regions, like New England and the South, and states as different as Maine and Texas.

“I’d explain they might have friends or relatives who live in other states — like cousins or uncles and aunts — and I’d ask my students to have them send postcards,” said the 12-year veteran teacher. “The pictures chosen for postcards can say a lot about a region’s climate and culture. And what people write on the back, and how they write it, can, too.”

In the past, Williams’ students might bring in about 40 to 50 postcards throughout the course of the school year.

But that was before his assignment found its way to Facebook this year — resulting in a flood of postcards from all over the globe.

The back wall of Williams’ classroom is now covered with the fruits of his students’ postcard labors. They surround a map with push pins delineating where each card originated.

After Savannah Sweeney of Salisbury mentioned the project at home, her mother, Darlene Sweeney, posted a little note on her Facebook page for two of her friends who live or travel outside the U.S. to see. From there, her request multiplied like the times tables.

“You know what they say, they told two friends and they told two friends, and so on and so on,” Darlene Sweeney said. “We started getting postcards from all over. Let me tell you, Savannah is thrilled. Going to the mailbox is the best part of her day. And I have just been so touched that all these people would do this.”

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