By Lauren Witt
During this school year, 19 seniors living at Presbyterian Village North (PVN), a Dallas senior living community, are serving as an inspiration to third grade students in Karen Gunter’s class at Good Shepherd Episcopal School. Each senior is paired up with a student, and the pair is writing cursive letters back and forth as part of a unique pen pal partnership. Excitement fills the air when the students and seniors receive a letter, and both groups cannot wait for the next letter writing surprise to arrive. The next letter writing activities will take place on March 19 and March 27. PVN residents will meet on those days at PVN (8600 Skyline Dr.) from 9:45 to 10:15 a.m. to write their letters, while the students will meet from 10:30 to 11:15 a.m. the very same day to write their letters in their classroom (11110 Midway Rd.). The exercise helps students learn and practice cursive, and it provides a tremendous emotional benefit for both the kids and older adults. Gunter came up with the pen pal idea after worrying that the lack of exposure to cursive, since it isn’t normally part of the curriculum, would prevent her students from reading historical documents in cursive like the Declaration of Independence.
Many of the kids had never written a letter or a thank you note in their life before starting this letter writing partnership. For this activity, the students are expected to write a draft, and after the review process, complete a final copy. Gunter is encouraging her students to write to the seniors about unique lessons and activities they are currently doing at school, as well as things happening in their own lives. Studies show that cursive writing helps with brain development, assists with fine motor skills and enhances the ability to perform small tasks. Writing gives students a chance to be still, and the act of putting thoughts onto paper makes them more focused. It creates room for peace. If children are exposed to constant activity it impairs their ability to sit quietly. Forming letters by hand not only helps children learn how to read, it solidifies knowledge and connects the dots when combining certain shapes and sounds. It also helps people develop their signature, which is like a person’s brand or trademark, if you will.
Cursive might be becoming obsolete in many classrooms, but PVN is excited to be a part of a pen pal program that makes it enjoyable for children to learn and practice cursive. Several residents agree that handwriting is a vintage art that is both practical and aesthetically pleasing. They note that handwriting is personal because it comes from a human and not from a machine. Eventually, they plan to coordinate an event for the residents of PVN to meet the students in Gunter’s class.