April 8, 2020
Interdisciplinary Studies and Early Education major Kaylea Nocher '21 has created a Facebook group for school children called Berkshire Buddies. “More than 260 kids joining within 12 days is really awesome and I’m so glad,” she said.
Although school has moved online for most children across the country, future educator Kaylea Nocher ’21 has made it her goal to inspire kids of all ages to keep interacting with each other, even from a distance. The MCLA Interdisciplinary Studies and Early Education major recently created Berkshire Buddies, a Facebook group where kids can sign up to be connected with a pen pal their age. The group currently has more than 760 members and more than 260 kids, ranging in age from 2–17, have been introduced to a snail mail friend since Nocher started the project on March 21.
Originally created solely for local schoolchildren, the group has grown quickly and now includes “buddies” from Maine, Vermont, and Florida. To inspire the pen pals to practice their reading and writing skills, Nocher provides each child with a kit that includes paper, worksheets, stamps, envelopes, stickers, and weekly writing prompts.
Nocher said the idea for the project was born of sympathy for children who wouldn’t be able to see their friends while social distancing orders were in place. “Social interactions are so important to the cognitive, social, and behavioral development of young learners,” she said.
Nocher is able to provide a free pen pal kit to each “buddy” thanks to a generous donation from Adams Community Bank, where Nocher works part time, and support from local parents.
“There are three weeks of supplies in the first bundle,” she said, “and if the parents and students want to progress after that, they can continue to write on their own.” Every bundle is age and gender neutral, and the worksheets bear positive quotes, so young children can have fun coloring them even if they can’t read the words.
Nocher, who lives in Savoy, Mass., said she is “absolutely in love with education” and happy to be able to study at one of the best schools for education, right where she grew up. Nocher did her pre-practicum this past fall at Hoosac Valley Elementary School in Adams, Mass., where she observed and helped with activities in a kindergarten class, and is eager to get back into a classroom setting as soon as possible.
But for now, she’ll settle for the wild success of Berkshire Buddies. “More than 260 kids joining within 12 days is really awesome and I’m so glad,” she said. “Maybe at the end, when all this blows over, we can have an event so the kids can meet their pen pals in person!”
Are you an MCLA student, alum, or faculty member? Do you want MCLA to share your story? Please email Creative and Brand Strategy Manager Francesca Olsen at Francesca.Olsen@mcla.edu.