Given today’s technology, the concept of sending a “wish you were here”-type correspondence by so-called snail mail may seem rather quaint.

But consider the reaction of certain Pine-Richland students on the receiving end.

“It’s like that scene from ‘Willie Wonka’ where he has the golden ticket,” Alexandra Batouyios said. “They’re waving it in the air: ‘I have a postcard!’”

She joined fellow world language teachers Sarah Mlaker and Meghan Duran in coordinating “It’s a Small World,” a project for youngsters in fourth through sixth grades at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School.

The goal was to collect postcards from all 50 states and at least 25 countries, and it turned out even better than that, with 40 nations represented from among nearly 500 cards mailed.

“When the project started, I’ll be honest. I didn’t know if it was actually going to take root or not,” Batouyios said. “I was even thinking, how many people do I know in the United States and how many people do I know in other countries?”

She planned to tell them: “Hey, this project is going to be a flop unless you send us something.”

Then the first postcard arrived, from a student’s grandparents who live in the Venango County community of Kennerdell, about an hour and a quarter north of Eden Hall.

“When I came in and saw it in my mailbox, I breathed a sigh of relief. I was like, I think this is going to work!” Batouyios recalled. “After that, things started really rolling in.”

The teachers encouraged students to spread the word among family members and friends who live in or were visiting places beyond Pine-Richland, requesting cards with information about the various locales and why they appeal to the senders.

“A lot of our postcards came from grandparents and friends of grandparents,” Batouyios said. “I would say that over half came from people who weren’t even directly connected to our kids. They just heard about it and they wanted to be part of something fun.”

Some of the cards bore messages in languages other than English, such as a batch sent by a class full of French-speaking students in Alaska.

“We had postcards from Japan come in, postcards from China, postcards from Russia,” Batouyios reported. “Now, if it was a student who had family living over there, that was great because the student could help translate.”

Some arrived while youngsters were studying a relevant topic, including one from Brazil during the students’ Portuguese/Carnaval unit.

Google assisted with translations, and its map platform came in handy for each card.

“I would always show the kids where it came from, and especially my fourth graders were so surprised how mail could come all that way,” Batouyios said.

She participated in a similar project while studying at Clarion University.

“I remember how much fun it was,” she said. “Ever since then, I’ve wanted to find a way to somehow bring it back, but there were different logistical challenges based in scheduling.”

Batouyios chairs the district’s world languages department, and she teaches Spanish and cultural fusion at Pine-Richland Middle School.

This year, she joined the world languages faculty at Eden Hall, as well.

“Every kid goes through our classes, so this could be a really easy schoolwide project to do,” she explained. “We really wanted to help kids make connections that are more tangible for them. They might have heard of countries, but they don’t know where they are.”

Through “It’s a Small World,” students learned not only about the locations, but the images pictured on the cards sparked interest in acquiring knowledge of further details.

“I do hope that these lessons stick with these kids, and I think they will,” Batouyios said. “They really bought into it.”

So did people like Uncle Dan, a relative of an Eden Hall student and frequent sender who penned messages along the lines of:

“Hey, kids! I was out at such-and-such this weekend. I thought of you guys, and I wanted to send you this nice little card,” Batouyios reported, and he also provided a special bonus:

“His mother had kept all the postcards that he sent her when he was in Central and South America with the Peace Corps. So his niece was bringing in postcards from the ’60s.”

The Eden Hall teachers thank members of the greater Pine-Richland community for making the postcard project a success.

“Everybody could get involved. It only cost a postage stamp,” Batouyios said. “So much now is so technology-oriented, but this was just good, old-fashioned fun.”

Harry Funk is a TribLive news editor, specifically serving as editor of the Hampton, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine Creek and Bethel Park journals. A professional journalist since 1985, he joined TribLive in 2022. You can contact Harry at