Pershing and Belgian students bond over school's namesake

Fourth-grade students from Pershing Elementary School connected via live video with students in Belgium during the final week of the school year, the culmination of months of long-distance correspondence and the result of a longtime friendship between Lincoln Southeast High School graduates.

Jaci Kellison, social studies curriculum specialist for Lincoln Public Schools, and Jameson DeBose, a U.S. diplomat stationed in Belgium, graduated together from Southeast in 2002. They stayed in touch over the years, so DeBose knew whom to contact when he realized it was the 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I.

He not only knew Kellison worked for LPS but also remembered that Pershing Elementary was named after John J. Pershing, the six-star general who taught at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln before leading American forces in Europe during World World I. One of the primary entry points for U.S. troops was near Heuvelland, Belgium.

This winter, Pershing students and students from Heuvelland mailed each other boxes filled with artifacts that represented what it was like during World War I in both the United States and Belgium. Pershing students included items such as a canteen and mess kit used by U.S. soldiers, and a copy of the Omaha Bee newspaper that declared the end of the war.

This May, during the final week of school, the schools exchanged items that represented their modern-day homes and explained them during a live video chat. Among the items from the Pershing students were a U.S. flag, a Nebraska quarter and a special appearance by John Chapo, executive director of the Lincoln Children’s Zoo. He brought an ornate box turtle, the official reptile of Nebraska, and a striped skunk, common to the state.

Stephanie Fowler, an instructional coach at Pershing, was the driving force behind that school’s work on the project. She worked with students to research and gather items for the boxes to mail to Belgium and coordinated the video chats.

“It’s really been an amazing opportunity for the students to connect with students from another country,” Fowler said. 

Published: June 5, 2018, Updated: June 5, 2018