Unless you’ve ever been to Montana, you’ve probably never heard of the unincorporated township of Pray, but that hasn’t stopped the students there from getting to know Williamson County.
Pray only has two schools and boasts a population of just 681 residents, but thanks to the students at Grassland Middle School, their counterparts in Montana are getting insights about what it’s like to live in Tennessee.
GMS seventh grade teacher Michael Williams spends part of his summers visiting a retired teacher friend in Paradise Valley, Montana, and two summers ago the two came up with the idea to start a pen pal correspondence between their two schools.
“He said, ‘why don’t we do a little cultural exchange between your school and my school?’” Williams said. “So we thought it would be a good idea to just write each other back and forth the old fashioned way.”
Since starting the program, the mailings have elevated from hand-written letters to complete care packages containing goodies from each school’s region.
“I love sending things back and forth,” said student Trevor Conley. “Probably the coolest thing we’ve sent has been Moon Pies and the coolest thing they’ve sent us is a stuffed fish.”
And while sending goodies back and forth has been a real treat for students at both schools, there has also been plenty of learning going on from the things they are teaching one another.
“Their life up in Montana is a lot colder and they have less school time because of the weather,” said student Natalie Bordulas. “I think it’s crazy that our schools only have like an inch of snow and we get out of school and then they have like six inches and still have to go to school. I imagine walking through that to go to school. It would be freezing.”
Between exchanging goods and learning the ins and outs of a different culture via hand-written notes, the project seems to be a hit.
“I think it’s more fun than a class like math because in math class we just sit down and work,” Bordulas said. “This is more fun because we actually get to know people and do something that is more interactive with ourselves and the people up in Montana.”