Better reading, writing skills in the mail at elementary school


March 08, 2000|By Heather Tepe | Heather Tepe,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

EVERY PARENT knows that kids love to get mail. But children at Running Brook Elementary School have fun sorting and delivering it, too.

Since October, pupils and staff members have sent or received nearly 1,500 pieces of mail through Wee Deliver -- their in-school post office.

Wee Deliver is a free program offered by the U.S. Postal Service. Participating schools organize their in-school post offices as though the school were a miniature town. The program is designed to help children, kindergarten through eighth grade, build reading and writing skills.

Each classroom at Running Brook has a Wee Deliver mailbox -- a decorated shoe box -- to collect mail.

Art teacher Debbie Ruderman worked with pupils on design concepts for the stamps used to adorn each letter. A contest was held to choose a stamp design for each grade. The stamps, which were reproduced in color, are free to schoolchildren, staff members and parents. They have to be taped or glued on.

The Wee Deliver post office is staffed entirely by fifth-graders. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, they pick up mail from the classrooms and the mailbox near the front office. The mail is taken to the school's postal hub -- the media center.

Pupils are assigned jobs: mail collector, sorter, facer, data collector and delivery person.

Facers check to see that addresses are correctly written and each letter has a stamp. Letters passing inspection are rubber-stamped with the Wee Deliver logo.

Data collectors track who is getting letters and how many are coming from each classroom. A graph is posted near the front office showing how the program is doing.

Pupils rotate jobs and train each other so everyone gets an overview of how a post office works.

"Of course, the favorite job -- and one that is in demand -- is the delivery person," said Susan Mervine, fifth-grade teacher and program coordinator. "It's sort of like being captain of the safety patrol."

Assistant Principal Jason McCoy receives mail at his personalized address: 224 McCoy Way. Pupils' addresses are derived from their teacher's name. A second-grader in Kim Carey's class would receive mail addressed to 304 Carey St.

Parents get in on the act, too. They're invited to drop mail for their children in the mailbox near the front door. McCoy notices a lot of parents dropping mail in the box around parent-teacher conference time.

McCoy said he gets a couple of letters each week and he responds to each one.

"It's just another way for us to communicate," he said.

He and Principal Marion Miller often receive letters from children requesting more recess time, McCoy said. But some letters require more serious consideration, such as the letter from a pupil upset over troubles with classmates.

One third-grader wrote to Miller, "I don't get to see you nearly enough." So Miller makes it a point to say "Hi" and give the boy a hug when she visits his classroom.

Mervine brought the Wee Deliver program to Running Brook after seeing it at an elementary school in Hagerstown.

"I was looking to see how it would affect students' reading and writing," she said. Since participating in the program, she added, "I notice that the students who didn't read or write well are doing much better."

The Wee Deliver post office at Running Brook is staffed by Michael Barton, Jenny Brier, Amy Butler, Claudia Carrillo, Paul Chavez, Shamara Collins, Dion Frisoen, Hosie Frisoen, Kion Frisoen, Marilyn Kiely, Rachel Kreft, Alena Kuhlemeier, Kayla Layton, Dennis Martinez, Joy Reinhardt, Becky Rothwell, Ashley Tieperman, Adrianna Vargaz and Ashley Williams.

Faculty and staff members serving on the Wee Deliver Committee, which helped establish the program at Running Brook, are Kim Carey, Liz Factor Beth Gargano, Leslie Green, Dishelle Moore and Debbie Ruderman.

Information on the U.S. Postal Service's Wee Deliver program: 1-888-332-0317.

Wishes for Westport

This year, the Clarksville Middle School PTA adopted Westport Elementary School in Baltimore. The program, "Wishes for Westport," encourages families at the middle school to donate supplies and equipment to the inner-city school.

With the help of guidance counselor Arlene Katz, the PTA organized a coat, hat and mitten drive in December.

In January, Clarksville Middle pupils collected school supplies, and last month new and used books. The PTA decided to donate all Giant Food receipts collected last month to Westport.

A drive to collect sports equipment and board games is planned next month, and the two schools are trying to start a pen pal program.

"It's been really neat," said Shel Kelley, Clarksville's PTA president "The school is very appreciative."

Tomorrow night, the PTA will hold a dinner catered by Carrabba's Italian Grill, with proceeds going to Westport.

The PTA is also sponsoring a Scholastic Book Fair this week. For every book purchased, a book will be donated to Westport.

Kelley says that Westport is also looking for donations of new or used reference books.

To contribute to the Wishes for Westport program: 410-313-7057.

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