Third-graders share Christmas cheer with those alone or far from home

FORT KENT, Maine — While the Christmas season is when many people cherish spending time with loved ones, there are plenty of people who spend the holidays alone. 

Fort Kent Elementary School third-graders are reaching out to community members who may find themselves alone this Christmas by sending them handwritten letters and decorated Christmas tree ornaments.

Teachers Lynn Plourde, Tamar Philbrook and Michelle Lovley incorporated the project into their annual Christmas Around the World learning unit. 

The 61 students will mail the letters and Christmas tree-shaped ornaments to 61 members of the community, including some University of Maine at Fort Kent students who will remain on campus during the winter break.

FORT KENT, Maine — November 30, 2022 — Students in Lynn Plourde’s third-grade class write letters to those spending Christmas alone this year. (Jessica Potila | St. John Valley Times)

The multidisciplinary learning unit incorporates reading and writing, geography and social studies. The students read books about holiday celebrations in other countries. In a book about Christmas in France, they learned about the tradition of gift giving. 

“The best gift is of the self. Giving your time to make others feel better is more valuable than any gift you can buy,” Plourde said.

Student Trenton Nadeau said if he could give any gift to the recipient of his letter, it would be happiness.

“I am sad that they are alone and they don’t have anyone to celebrate Christmas with. I am trying to make this letter as good as I can to make them happy,” Nadeau said. 

Nadeau said he enjoyed learning about holiday customs in other countries. 

“In Switzerland they make bells for the holidays and that’s their tradition,” he said.

Student Elijah Grange said he had no trouble thinking of what to say in his letter to a person named Katie.

“My hand does all the work; I don’t really think about it. That is how I get most of my stuff done. It works well and gives me pretty good ideas,” Grange said. 

Christmas Around the World has been part of the third grade curriculum at Fort Kent Elementary School for 26 years. This year, Town Manager Suzie Paradis suggested the addition of the letter-writing project.

Paradis and Nichole Jandreau of UMFK provided the teachers with names of people who may appreciate receiving letters and ornaments from the students, Plourde said.

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