A PROJECT OF RURAL SCHOOLS COLLABORATIVE & NREA

Michele Zollars, Oak Run, CA

Penpals Engage with Letters to a Pre-Scientist during COVID Closures

June 10, 2020 |
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We are asking rural communities to share how COVID-19 is impacting them. Read below for what Michele Zollars of Oak Run, CA, had to say. You can share yours here: http://bit.ly/iaartcovid (Note: user submitted pre-COVID photos)

At my rural school of less than 60 students, the majority do not have reliable wifi access at home. We, the school staff, imparted textbooks and paper learning packets to them when we parted for the COVID shutdown. We continued to hold open campus once per week for distribution and collection of school work and food.

In the midst of these challenges, I've truly enjoyed working with the professional staff at Letters to a Pre-Scientist! At the beginning of the year, my 17 students were matched with scientists of all kinds, not only in our own state of California, but 8 other states and 3 foreign countries. Students exchanged rounds of traditional snail mail letters with themes of science, career, college, and overcoming challenges. It truly broadened their horizons. Once, we were able to video chat in class with Dr. Alex, who combines the latest robotic techniques and brain mapping for people with traumatic injuries.

Along came COVID-19, and Jenelle and Lucy at LPS was able to facilitate uploading/downloading letters to exchange in a transparent, safe way which worked for students who needed printed mail as well as all those needing electronic letters. The students really enjoyed their penpal letters during this time of social isolation. Jenelle helped me arrange class chats with 3 of our penpals for a group discussion via video and phone, which inspired me to add a couple more chats with more college-educated people around the country who I felt might inspire my students, who are fairly isolated even when we are not under COVID conditions, in their small town of less than 600 in the Sierra foothills.

I thank Letters to a Pre-Scientist for this opportunity to open new ideas, places, and dreams to my students, while safely staying connected in a time of disconnection.

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