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January 16, 2013

A viral lesson plan

Elementary students' call for postcards travels across the globe


Nathaniel Howard’s request to his great aunt got him five postcards showing the diversity of the Golden State, otherwise known as California. For students Duncan MacDonald and Skyler Bilapka, Chicago came to life through postcards.

New England is well represented among the cards, too. Aiden Hawes got one from his pen pal in Vermont. Riley McLaughlin received postcards from relatives in New Hampshire’s Lakes Region and Ben Janvrin’s grandparents responded to his request with cards from Bar Harbor, Maine.

Freya Tuomi got especially creative, writing to Ross Lynch, star of the Disney show “Austin and Ally,” to request a postcard. According to everyone in the class, including Liann Banks, “`Austin and Ally’ is an awesome show,” and classmates applauded Freya for really reaching for the moon.

Freya was thrilled when she got a card back from Lynch and dutifully brought it in to share. Since then, though, it’s been kept under wraps.

“That’s another case of a postcard too precious to part with,” Williams said.

For Williams, the impact of one card has especially stood out.

His class had read “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, the 1990 Newbery Medal award winner for children’s literature. Set in World War II Denmark as the German Occupation threatened, the novel revolves around a Jewish family and the work of the people of Denmark to get Danish Jews out of their country to Sweden just in time.

Williams said the students were moved by the novel, but the gripping story can leave an impression of World War II Germany that’s no longer relevant today. A postcard from Germany helped erase that impression, he said.

“The postcard is from Stuttgart and it has a beautiful fountain on it,” Williams said. “One student asked where it was from, and when I said it was Germany, the student was surprised. He said, `That’s Germany? I think I’d like to go there.’”

The moral is: A picture postcard can be worth a thousand words.

Anyone traveling who might want to share postcards with Williams’ students can send them to David Williams, c/o Newbury Elementary School, 63 Hanover St., Newbury 01951.

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