Increasingly — and, some might argue, exclusively — people are communicating electronically. Text, email, social media — when it comes to writing to each other, people are talking with their thumbs. Emily Leedy, a fifth-grade teacher at Malcolm Elementary School, is attempting to change things up a bit by introducing a cross-curricular letter-writing opportunity to fifth graders.

Emily Leedy, center, a fifth-grade teacher at Malcolm Elementary School, is awarded a $300 mini grant from the Maryland Retired School Personnel Association. Leedy will use the funds to start a writing program at the school among all fifth graders. Pictured from left are Elizabeth Brown, member of the Charles County Board of Education; Mary Finneran, Malcolm’s principal; Leedy; George Denny Jr., president of the MRSPA; and Scott Hangey, vice principal of Malcolm.

She will be helped in the endeavor with a $300 mini-grant from the Maryland Retired School Personnel Association (MRSPA). The grants help bring projects to classrooms and schools that might not be possible without the boost of the award.

The association’s President George Denny Jr., and Wanda Ruffo Twigg, it’s executive director, attended a morning staff meeting Wednesday at Malcolm to award Leedy the grant. Denny said it was the program’s simplicity that won over judges tasked to award seven mini-grants to educators throughout the state.

Leedy plans to launch the pen pal-like program in early 2022. “On the surface, it is so simple,” Denny said. “But when you think about it, how many people write letters today? We all have cell phones, we all have computers, we all have Zoom. To take that very basic skill of writing a letter and make it beneficial to students is great.”

Leedy was inspired by a practice she and a friend continue — they send each other mail. She took that idea and will incorporate elements of the writing curriculum students delve into during fifth grade. “There is so much writing in fifth grade, and this will support writing standards,” Leedy said. Students will pen draft copies, and revise and edit their work before putting a stamp on it and mailing it away.

The writing program also brings in a connection component. Leedy has reached out to peers in parts of the state beyond Southern Maryland to participate. By staying in the state, students are building off the knowledge they gained in fourth grade when they studied regions in Maryland.

The grant will cover postage and paper that is a step up from the standard notebook variety. Leedy, the team lead for fifth grade, said all students in Malcolm’s fifth-grade classes will participate and likely start the program in February.

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