beyond the classroom
French Exchange Program: Long Time Pen Pals
The relationship between the American School for the Deaf and the Institut National de Jeune Sourds de Paris (INJS) has been in existence since the early 19th century when Thomas Gallaudet traveled to Europe looking for guidance in his efforts to set up the first school for the deaf in the United States. The connection between the two schools was re-established in 1989, and students from both schools have a chance to meet, visit each other’s schools and exchange ideas and cultures. During a two-year cycle, the students taking French at ASD and the students taking English at INJS become pen pals and exchange letters and e-mail. They meet face-to-face every year at alternating locations. This past spring, students from ASD traveled to Paris to visit their pen pals. This spring, French students will visit ASD. Funds for the trip are raised by students, family contributions and charitable donations. The ASD French students are looking forward to hosting their French pen pals!
ASD and Lewis Mills:
Pen Pals for Ten Years…and still going strong By Anna Andrews and Robin Mengual
Like most teens, high school students at the American School for the Deaf and at Lewis Mills High School in Burlington, CT share lots of common interests – music, cars, sports, movies, to name just a few. But these teens also share one special interest - a love of sign language. Since 1998, students from both schools have participated in a pen pal exchange under the direction of Robin Boe Mengual, ASL teacher at Lewis Mills High School and Anna Andrews, High School English teacher at ASD. About every 4 weeks, the students at one school write a letter and make a video using sign language for their corresponding pen pals at the other school. This exchange benefits both groups academically and socially. The Mills students get practice in expressive and receptive signing skills while the ASD students get practice in reading and writing English. The groups generally have an opportunity to meet
twice a year and practice their social skills in the mix of deaf and hearing worlds. It’s a wonderful way to make new friends and learn something new at the same time. In a typical cycle, the students begin exchanging letters in October. Then the Mills students come to visit ASD in late fall or early winter. The ASL 1 class spends the morning on a tour of campus and observing classes in Cogswell. The ASL 2 students shadow their ASD pen pals and attend classes with them. They are also required to interview a hearing-impaired adult staff member. All the students meet for lunch together. The afternoon session is spent in playing icebreaker games and other sign language games. Before the Mills students head to their bus, there is always a flurry of picture-taking and exchange of e-mail addresses.