APRIL 14, 1997

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Student letters lead to Microsoft Museum trip

Easy Ball

"It's hard to do this," said Fernwood Elementary second grader Leanne Sharp, testing out the Easy Ball, a special mouse for kids.
Photo by Andrew Walgamott/Northwest News.

Microsoft Museum by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter
Students from Linda Forbes' second-grade Fernwood Elementary class visited the Microsoft Museum last week. The class was invited after writing letters to Microsoft president Bill Gates, asking him to come to their school for lunch. Bill was a little busy, but thanks to the letters, which touched the public relations manager's heart, the students received a much-sought-after invitation to the museum.
   At the Microsoft campus, the students, parents, and Northshore School District officials were treated to lunch and drinks and then took in the history of computers and software, plus the latest in the Internet and games for children.
   And according to Forbes, the class returned to school with armloads of new programs that Microsoft donated. Forbes said the class was given CD-ROMs such as Ancient Lands, Creative Writer, Sign Artist, the Ultimate Robot, and Encarta '96, an encyclopedia. Each student also received bags filled with a soccer ball, binoculars, and pens and pencils.
   Forbes said her class was lucky to be invited and credited the letters they had sent to Gates. Letter writing is part of second grade curriculum, according to Forbes. In past years, Forbes' classes have mailed cards to actor Charlton Heston and to Joey Cora of the Seattle Mariners. This year, they wrote to Bill Gates. Correspondences from the class included:
   "Dear Bill Gates, We would like you to come in for lunch at Fernwood Elementary School. It would be fun to have the richest man in the world!" wrote Nicole Manning.
   "Do you know a lot about computers?" asked Michelle Ostenberg.
   "Do you have a race car?" Taylor Hudson asked.
   "Can we come and see your office? Will 23 kids in our class all fit in?" Branin Orcutt asked.
   Microsoft was intrigued. While Gates was busy with other business, the class was invited to come to the museum. The museum isn't open to the public, and an invitation to visit is a treasured ticket. Forbes said her class felt they had won a contest.
   According to Public Relations Manager John Pinette, Microsoft receives many requests from people asking to see the museum. "We get so many requests, and can't accommodate everyone," said Pinette.
   He spoke of the special exception for the Fernwood kids. "The kids are in our back yard. They sent cute letters to Bill. This seemed like a special case, so we invited them," Pinette said.
   Microsoft's museum displays artifacts dating from the abacus and MIT'S Altair to the latest in programming and the Internet. Last year, 37,000 people passed through.
   Northshore Communications Director Pamela Steele went along on the field trip and noted that 19 of the 23 kids had computers in their homes. As the kids latched onto computers exhibiting the Internet, educational programs, and games, Steele noted that it was also a fine time to expose the children to school-to-work training.
   "This is a wonderful exposure for young kids to see the wonders of work," said Steele. She noted that at such a young age, ways to give children experience with the future job market were limited.
   "We have parents come in. But this (the museum) is a totally different experience. It will lodge in their brain," said Steele, noting the high energy environment of the museum.
   Forbes said that the class would be sending Microsoft a thank-you letter. "I'm going to do more stuff like this," said Forbes. With a twinkle in her eye, she said next year she would have her students write to the Hawaiian Chamber of Commerce for samples of sand.
   "Think they'll send tickets?" she mused.