East St. Louis fifth-graders are trying to understand how students just like them are feeling after being hit with historic flooding more than 650 miles away.
The Lincoln Middle School class learned about the area south of Baton Rouge, La., that was hit with prolonged rainfall in August and recently wrote letters and compiled care packages for fifth-graders there.
Many of the local students, like Davonté Haire, wanted to say they’re sorry for what the children in Louisiana are going through and try to make them feel better. Davonté, who wants to be a “legend rapper” and NASCAR driver when he grows up, shared a rap line with his pen pal.
“I do what I do when I’m at school. I be cool don’t be a fool and use my awesome tools,” he wrote.
Davonté also wrote about how his home’s basement had flooded once, but his family got through it “and I was happy again.”
“I wish I could be there with you, but can’t sorry,” he wrote. Davonté signed the letter, “your caring friend to the end.”
Along with their words of encouragement, the metro-east students filled backpacks with items like water bottles, soap and bug repellant that will be delivered on Wednesday to four fifth-grade classes in Louisiana.
Lincoln Middle School teacher Angelique Douglas said the project was an opportunity to teach her class about compassion and empathy.
“My students were sorry for the loss other children had experienced due to flooding in Baton Rouge,” she said. “Through this project, they felt united by a common bond of humanity and a shared concern for those in need.”
I just wanted to let you know you are never ever alone in (a) bad thing like this.
Katelynn Allen, Lincoln Middle School fifth-grader to her pen pal in Louisiana
Some of the fifth-graders told their pen pals about times they’d dealt with death.
Michael Wilson’s great grandmother died from illness and a massive heart attack. He wrote that he couldn’t go to her funeral “because it would break my heart.”
“I hope this letter helps you recover because I want you to feel better and get over this,” Michael wrote. “... Trust me God has your back.”
Katelynn Allen shared how she felt when her Shih Tzu, Zoey, died after being hit by a car.
“I just wanted to let you know you are never ever alone in (a) bad thing like this,” Katelynn wrote. “I hope these little 4-5 paragraphs help. I really put a lot of effort in this letter just to make sure you feel better.”
Douglas’ class is one of four in the St. Louis region participating in the project. It’s a partnership with the newly-established Swarovski Waterschool USA Mississippi River, headquartered at Lewis and Clark Community College’s National Great Rivers Research and Education Center.
Teachers were given a curriculum guide from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which contains lessons in science, history and culture pertaining to the Mississippi River. The Lincoln Middle School fifth-grades also took a field trip to the Gateway Geyser at Malcolm M. Martin Memorial Park in East St. Louis to learn more about the Mississippi River.
The following entities also provided support for the project: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville STEM Center; Illinois American Water; Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana; Ascension Parish Public School District; and Cherry Lake Publishing.
Some of the students’ letters to their pen pals were provided to the News-Democrat by East St. Louis District 189.