Forget the chimney, these days Santa videoconferences

Santa interrupts classroom activities for kindergarteners, first and second graders for a little video cheer.

For some school children in Port Huron, Michigan, Santa is beaming himself into classrooms instead of shimmying down the chimney.

Santa and the missez are videoconferencing with 104 kindergartners and first and second graders, direct from the North Pole courtesy of the St. Clair Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) in Marysville, MI. "The students' faces just light right up, especially when Santa says their names," said Robyn Herr, a first-grade teacher at Eddy Elementary School in St. Clair.

The project encourages the youngsters to develop writing skills while celebrating the winter holiday.

The students each wrote a letter to Santa asking questions and making requests. During the video conferences, Santa reads through the letters, answering the students' questions.

"How are the elves?" "How does Santa get down the chimneys?" and "How do reindeer fly?" are among the frequent questions posed by excited students, said Sue Rutkofske, project manager with RESA's education technology department.

Videoconferencing with Santa proved to be an entertaining way to incorporate writing into the curriculum.

"It shows them their writing serves a purpose," said Morton Elementary School Principal Kathleen Schmitt, to whom Santa promised a Mercedes Benz.