Program overview and logistics

Important Notes

  • Throughout the 2020-21 school year we will be modifying the program in real time according to each school’s coronavirus precautions. After matching takes place, you will be notified by email about which model your school is using. Please monitor your email carefully!
  • Whenever safe and possible, we will use snail mail. If not possible, we will conduct the letter exchange electronically. Most of the information on our site has been created to inform you about our snail mail model. Therefore, if your classroom is exchanging letters electronically, please pay close attention to emails from Jenelle for the most up to date information about how to send and receive your letters.
  • Do not share any personal contact information with your pen pal such as social media handles, email addresses, or phone numbers.
  • If your pen pal discloses something that causes you to suspect abuse or neglect of your pen pal or another youth, reach out to Lucy Madden immediately at
  • If you need to change your mailing address during the school year, please fill out the form that will be linked under STEM professionals >> matched pen pal resources in the menu bar once the program begins.
  • All STEM professionals who registered and completed training by the deadline who are not matched with a pre-scientist at the start of the year will be added to our waitlist and potentially be matched during the year if a school gets a new student or a STEM professional cannot fulfill their commitment. You will be notified by the end of September if you are on the waitlist.

Letter round overview

*Pre-scientists kick things off by writing the first letter. You’ll write back to the letter you receive.

*One late letter could delay a Letter Opening Party for an entire class! Please send your letters by the deadline!

The path of each letter-writing round of Letters to a Pre-Scientist.

This letter writing cycle happens 4 times throughout a school year. By the end, every pre-scientist and scientist pair will have exchanged 8 total letters. 1. Pre-scientists: Address & stamp envelopes. 2. Pre-scientists: Write letter to scientist. 3. Teachers: Collect and organize finished letters & envelopes. 4. Teachers: Facilitate a lesson during class about the theme. 5. Teachers: Mail letters to scientists. 6. Scientists: Receive letter from their pre-scientist! 7. Scientists: Write letter response to pre-scientist. 8. Scientists: Mail letter response to pre-scientist’s school. 9. Teacher: Receives scientist letters as they arrive to school. 10. Pre-scientists: open letters from their scientist during a letter opening party!

Program Calendar

*Each teacher sets specific deadlines with their school calendar, so dates are approximate. Matched pen pals will receive an email from your Program Manager with specific postmark deadlines from your classroom.

*A postmark deadline is the date your letter must be in the mail and uploaded electronically!

Pen Pal Program Timeline
July August September October
STEM professionals register to be pen pals! We train teachers to host LPS in their classroom. STEM professionals complete online training. Pre-scientists begin registering at the start of the school year. *We pair each pre-scientist with one of our STEM professionals. Students write the 1st letter to their pen pal and letters are delivered to STEM pen pals! Round one! STEM pen pals write a letter explaining their career and send it to their pre-scientist at school. Pre-scientists have their first letter opening party!
November December January February
Pre-scientists write back to their STEM pen pals and teachers mail replies to STEM professionals! Round two! STEM pen pals write a letter explaining their higher education journey and send it to their pre-scientist at school. Pre-scientists open their second letter! They explore and write a response including any questions they have about higher education. Teachers mail student letters. Round three! STEM pen pals write and mail a reply to their student, including how they have overcome obstacles in their pursuit to becoming a STEM professional.
March April May June
open their third letter and reflect on how they’ve overcome challenges. They write a final letter to their pen pal. Teachers mail responses.
Round four! Pen pals read their last pre-scientist letter and write a letter final response, then mail it to their pre-scientist’s school. LPS recruits teachers for the next year. Pre-scientists open their fourth and final letter from their STEM pen pal! The program officially ends! STEM professionals, teachers, and pre-scientists take surveys to help LPS improve.
Please note that the event months are approximate and intended to give you an idea of the program timeline. We set each teacher’s schedule individually with their school schedule.
*Volunteers not matched initially are added to our waitlist and may be matched at any time throughout the year when new students arrive or STEM professionals drop out.


Each letter round has a theme. The themes create structure to help teachers use information from your letters to support student exploration during class, ensure each student learns a few consistent things we think are key to getting them interested in science and excited about exploring STEM careers, and provide guidance for situations where conversation is flowing less naturally.

  • Round one: STEM career pathways
  • Round two: Higher education journeys
  • Round three: Overcoming obstacles
  • Round four: Reflect and inspire

The prompts should guide one part of your letter, but aren’t meant to limit your creativity or prescribe your entire letter. Find more theme information, including prompts specific to each round on the Letter Themes page.

Letter Writing dos and don’ts

We asked our teachers about the top challenges they face supporting students in the classroom. Check out what you can do to ensure your letter and envelope are accessible to your pre-scientist.

Table explaining letter writing dos and don'ts

Do print neatly and use font size 12 or above. If you do not have clear handwriting, please type! Do include lots of captioned pictures, drawings and/or maps (especially for low readers). Do include the return address, written neatly, in the top left corner on each envelope. Simplify addresses when possible (use acronym for university name). Do send your letter on time! Do upload an electronic copy of your letter, in addition to mailing a physical copy. Do send 3D items in large envelopes or boxes with your letter inside. Don’t write in cursive. Don’t end long pages of unbroken text. Don’t forget to write return address on each envelope. Don’t write out long addresses that students will have a difficult time fitting on envelope. Don’t leave your pen pal waiting for your letter or letter-less. Don’t only upload an electronic copy of your letter or only mail a physical copy. Don’t send 3D items such as pencils inside regular size envelopes- they will likely get damaged in transit!