West Orange High School students Skype with sister school in France

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — West Orange High School students in French 2, 2 Honors, and I Honors participated in a Skype teleconference in the auditorium with their pen pal friends from the Gustave Monod High School in Enghien-les-Bains, France, on March 24.

Students had previously sent posters and letters of encouragement to students at Gustave Monod High School, located just outside Paris, following the Paris bombings in November 2015. More than 100 West Orange students have been writing letters to their peers in French, and the French students have responded with letters in English. West Orange French teacher Dana Peart and Gustave Monod School’s English teacher Madame Naidenov helped to facilitate the projects throughout the school year.

“Through their letters, our students gain understanding about the other’s culture while improving their writing skills,” Peart said in a release, adding that one student had made plans to meet up with her pen pal as her family vacationed in Paris this past week.

To prepare for the teleconference, both groups of students exchanged cultural questions that they wanted answered from the other group. Responses were prepared in advance to present during the teleconference, including school hours, school menus, the prom and American elections.

“My students were not only able to put their language skills in action in a meaningful way, but also gained valuable knowledge about French culture, in addition to being able to ‘meet’ their pen pals,” Peart said.

Another teleconference will be scheduled for next year and pen pal correspondence will continue through June. Peart expects that the program will be expanded to include other French classes in the fall.

“My students are building bridges and promoting a culture of acceptance despite our differences. In my opinion, their efforts are making our world a better place,” Peart said.