Dozens send letters to Dettah, N.W.T., students learning about geography, connection

·3 min read

Students at Kaw Tay Whee School in Dettah, N.W.T., are learning about mail this winter after receiving dozens of letters from people all over the world.

It began as a way to get the students to write letters to each other and find a way to connect during the COVID-19 pandemic, says Christina Boggis, who teaches the Junior-Kindergarten-to-Grade-1 class at Kaw Tay Whee School.

Then she decided to reach out to the public on Facebook, so the students could receive letters from anyone anywhere. The response was huge.

Submitted by Lea Lamoureux
Submitted by Lea Lamoureux

"I definitely had the hope that we would get some response and receive a few letters," Boggis said during an interview outside the school earlier in December. "I didn't think we'd get quite many as we have, which has been just such a wonderful gift for the kids."

The students have received more than 50 letters from all over the Northwest Territories, Canada, and from as far away as Austria, Australia and Costa Rica.

Learning from a mermaid in the Atlantic Ocean

Every day, the kids check the mail via their very own large, red mailbox — like the ones issued by Canada Post; but this one is decked out with flashing lights and labelled with "Letters to KTW" for Kaw Tay Whee School.

And then they look at the elements that go into each letter: the envelop, address, return address stamps — and the letter itself.

"The mail [goes] in the mailbox," says student Emily Sundberg.

"The mail guy comes and takes it and then he brings it to the person that we mail it to," says her cousin and fellow classmate Shihka Sundberg.

Submitted by Lea Lamoureux
Submitted by Lea Lamoureux

"It takes a long time for [the mail] to get close to people to send to her, her, her, her, her, him," said junior kindergarten student Edison Tapper, pointing to his classmates around a circle in the playground outside the school.

Shihka estimates it takes about 10 days for a letter from Ontario to make it to Dettah.

Kaw Tay Whee's principal Lea Lamoureux reads one of the latest letters to the kids, as they gather round.

"It says it's from M. Mermaid. Under the Sea Lane. Atlantic Ocean," she says, with an animated voice. "I am writing this letter from under the sea where it is very wet and salty and full of shells and sea creatures. I live in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nova Scotia."

It's bringing a lot of thinking and a lot of connection-making. - Christina Boggis, Kaw Tay Whee School

Boggis says this is an opportunity for the students to go back to the map in their classroom and situate places during their geography lessons.

"And so looking at the distances of where people are living, a lot of them are telling us about their families, their pets, which the kids love learning about, and different activities that they like to do," Boggis said.

And then the kids get to write them back. And Boggis says they love that part too. She's taken the opportunity to, once again, bring this fun, haphazard letter-receiving fun, into a lesson — this time, about writing.

"So it's really neat to see different kids in people's families saying, 'Oh, this is so-and-so's grandma who has written a letter' ... and they're like, 'Wait, your grandma wrote this letter?'

"It's bringing a lot of thinking and a lot of connection-making."