March 02, 2008

Whoopie pies and Eskimo ice cream

Noteworthy class project

Pen-pal program closes the 3,700-mile gap between third-graders in Lancaster and AlaskaIn a remote and tiny community in Alaska reside some Yupik Eskimo schoolchildren who are newly enamored of a certain Pennsylvania Dutch confection: the whoopie pie.

The third-grade students at Ignatius Beans School in Mountain Village, Alaska, have been corresponding since October with third-graders at Dayspring Christian Academy in Manheim Township.

The pen pals have traded tidbits about their young lives; they've shared their interests. And the Dayspring students sent their Alaskan pen pals whoopie pies.

Perhaps whoopie pies could be dispatched to people in other corners of the world, to create peaceful relationships and intercultural understanding. For they surely were a hit among the Mountain Village students, who belong to the Asa'carsarmiut tribe of Yupik Eskimos.

Mary Stauffer, the third-grade teacher at Dayspring who organized the pen-pal project, said the kids in Alaska have a treat of their own, which they call "Eskimo ice cream."

It has different ingredients—in some places, it's made with reindeer fat and seal oil, as well as snow—but in Mountain Village, it's made with whitefish, Crisco, sugar and berries (usually blueberries and salmonberries).
The project is busting stereotypes about Alaskan Natives:Kristian Long said his pen pal has the same game system—PlayStation 3—as he does. "I was a little surprised," Kristian said. "I was like, 'huh?' "

It turns out that playing computer games and watching videos are activities many of the Alaskan and Pennsylvanian kids have in common.
And:"They speak English," said Grace Stillman. "I thought they'd speak a whole other language."

Hunt said many of her students' elders speak Yupik, and her students study Yupik at school, but they mostly speak English.

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