Matawan Aberdeen sixth graders in Christine Read's math class walked into their classroom last week to find the whiteboard decorated with handmade cards and the front table stacked with Korean candies.
Jaws dropped and excited chatter spread through the group as they explored the cards in aw, which had arrived specially for them from students in Korea. Hand-drawn pictures of Spongebob Squarepants and youtube sensation Psy grabbed the students attention, as well as the bright colors of the cards and the neatly penned letters written in English.
"They're so creative," one sixth grader commented.
"I think it's awesome how well they can write English," noted another.
The cards shared kind words of encouragement and Korean traditions, including the tradition of Pepero Day. Pepero Day is similar to Valentine's Day and is celebrated on Nov. 11, Read explained. It is a day when friends and loved ones exchange Pepero candies.
Read's cousin, Sara Webb, who is Korean but was adopted by Read's aunt as an infant, moved to South Korea and became an English teacher about three years ago at Daesong Middle School, Read explained. The pair had talked about doing something to connect their two middle school classes, but it wasn't until Hurricane Sandy that the idea came to fruition.
"My cousin said, 'Maybe we can do something with our students to cheer up your students because they didn't get Halloween,'" she said. "They figured they'd send all of this stuff to cheer up the kids after the hurricane."
The students of Daesong Middle School not only made enough cards and sent enough candy for Read's class, they sent enough for Read's entire team at MAMS.
"It's not just for my class, it's for the whole team. We're going to respond back," she said, noting that the math class will find a way to use the metric system, the social studies class will take a look at South Korean history and culture and the English class will write back.
The students also created a video to show Matawan-Aberdeen what it's like to attend school in South Korea, where they all enjoy the same lunch, clean their own classrooms and attend a manners class.
Read was amazed by the students from Daesong Middle School and pleased to see her students so engaged and curious about another culture.
"Words can't even describe it," she said.