6 Apr 2022

Year 12 CAS – Pen Pal Program

CAS stands for Creativity, Action, and Service, and it is one of three essential elements that every student must complete to receive the IB Diploma. While not formally assessed, CAS provides opportunities for students to enhance their personal and interpersonal development through hands-on learning. 


One of the components of CAS is a ‘CAS Project’, a collaborative series of student-initiated CAS experiences over several months engaging students in one or more CAS strands (creativity, activity, and service). Following the five CAS stages of Investigation, Preparation, Demonstration, Action, and Reflection, students can explore their passions whilst challenging themselves to initiate purposeful action around defined goals. The following months will bring a series of interviews where the STC Media Team interviews different students around school to highlight their CAS projects and initiatives. 


This week, Anthony Law speaks to the STC Media Team about his CAS project Pen Pal Program, of which he is a leader. His decision to join this program was due to his belief that the Pen Pal Program would help with his future aspirations as a teacher and bring him one step closer to achieving this goal. 


Can you introduce your CAS project? What intentions does the Pen Pal Program have?


Our CAS project is a Pen Pal Program called Letters of Love. Students from STC correspond with and provide support for primary school students from the We R Family Foundation through letters in English. We hope this program will be mutually beneficial, where students will improve their English writing, broaden horizons and form solid friendships with each other. This project aims to expand the students’ English vocabulary by assigning students to students from the 333 pen pal program.


What impact/outcome do you hope your CAS project will have on the school community?


These children come from underprivileged backgrounds and do not have access to quality English education, so we, as international school students, can provide an excellent opportunity to improve their English writing skills. As for the STC students, we broaden our mutual horizons by learning more about different backgrounds, exchanging ideas, and forging friendships. As most of us have never interacted or studied in a traditional school environment, it is a great opportunity to understand another school setting and the students educated there. 


Any changes due to COVID-19? How have you adapted?


Our program includes exchanging letters between two parties every two weeks. Therefore, as the program is almost entirely remotely based, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has thankfully not affected us as much as it has on other CAS projects requiring face-to-face activities. However, we have had to start sending letters through image and file scans online by email, rather than actual paper/hard copies of the letters to the centre.


What are the benefits of having a pen pal? Can a pen pal teach us anything?


The main benefit of having a pen pal is that it hones one’s writing skills while enabling them to build a bridge between themselves and another person, exploring potential new cultures, customs, traditions, and understanding the daily life of the other individual. Having a pen pal helps support the development of a person’s social skills, as a pen pal promotes many vital social skills such as reciprocation, empathy and mutual concern. In my case, a pen pal helped me develop skills such as patience, understanding and instruction, which would prove helpful for my plans as a teacher.


Given the rise of the internet, do you still think pen pals are relevant? Why so?


In my opinion, in the modern-day and age, an old fashioned letter written by hand, stamped and sent to the mailbox is a cumbersome and slow process. While still helping to develop writing skills on paper for young children, pen pal correspondence through email (as we have done) is more efficient and less time/resource consuming. 


The rise of the internet promotes social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, where people may share their thoughts, feelings and daily activities without fear. However, these social media platforms do not help develop social skills such as those previously mentioned. Having a pen pal fosters a relationship between two individuals that we cannot replicate on the internet through means other than online messaging applications.


What is your favourite thing about having a pen pal?


I feel that being able to teach English through my letters has been the highlight of the pen pal program to me. Although I have done teaching in the past, most of it rarely lasted longer than a month, so creating a good relationship with a primary school student and keeping this for a long time has helped dramatically and immensely improve my instructing and social skills. 


Written by: Emily Xia

Edited by: Kadence Wong