When John Street decided to send an e-mail message to 25 people about a year ago, he had no idea what he was in for.
Mr. Street thought it would be a good idea to have the 15 students in his 4th grade class at the 117-student Newcastle Public School, a K-12 school in Newcastle, Neb., track the course of the e-mail for a couple of months.
"I was naïve," Mr. Street said. "Our original goal was 500 responses."
Because his class was studying the states, he hoped to get an e-mail from every capital, so the students could find that location on a map. His students did receive an e-mail from every state capital—and then some.
In just four hours, responses came pouring in, including one from China and one from South America. And the pace has hardly slowed. And as of last week, Mr. Street's class had received 212,000 e-mails from all over the globe. The teacher had to get a larger mailbox to handle the responses.
As a result of the project, which has expanded to include this year's 4th grade class as well, the students "have tremendous mapping skills," Mr. Street said.
The students were most excited to receive a handful of e-mails from Antarctica, but the most frequent responses came from Australia and New Zealand. One woman from Australia sent the class—via "snail mail"—a set of travel books and gave each student a small stuffed koala bear.
Of all the responses, only five have been negative, the teacher said. Those mostly expressed concerns that the e-mail project would take up too much space on the Internet.
The overwhelmingly positive comments have taught the students much more than mapping skills, Mr. Street said: "I think we know now that people out there are concerned about schools and education."
And many people have applauded his use of technology to bring the world to the town of 280 residents. "Just because we're a small school," he said, "doesn't meant that we can't give these students an opportunity to learn and grow."
Vol. 20, Issue 22, Page 3