PEORIA, Ariz. (June
1, 2011) — If you ask an Oasis Elementary School third-grader in Melanie
Lehman’s class where Northern Ireland is, he or she can tell you that – and much
participated in an exchange through the Sister Cities Program, which links
Peoria with the Borough of Ards, Northern Ireland. The 29 Peoria Unified School
District children were put in touch with 25 Abbey Primary School students from
Northern Ireland so that they and pupils in Karen Mowart’s Primary Five class
could collaborate on projects.
This spring, students
in the two classes emailed one another, exchanged pictures and wrote letters.
These activities not only were fun but also an authentic lesson for the PUSD
third-graders. Because Arizona’s third-grade state standard curriculum requires
students to write friendly letters, the Sister Cities correspondence served as a
writing lesson as well. Instead of composing bogus letters to fake pen pals, the
Peoria students wrote properly formed letters sharing information about
themselves, their families and their lives here in the United States. In turn,
the Irish youngsters shared information about themselves with their pen pals in
“The authentic learning
that transpired through this correspondence was exciting,” Lehman says. “Instead
of writing a random letter, the students were actually able to write a real
letter to a real person in Ireland. You can’t get much better than that.”
Lehman hopes to expand
the breadth of the program next year to include Internet video conferencing so
that the new friends can converse while seeing one another.
Members of Peoria’s
Sister Cities Committee – which is led by John Buonagurio and includes Penny
Hughes, Bonnie Apperson, James Flonacher, Patty Fusco and Joya Kizer Clarke –
worked with Lehman throughout the spring to make the project happen.
Their interest grew out
of the city’s commitment to Sister Cities International, a program dedicated to
creating goodwill and furthering international understanding at the community
level. Proposed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower 1956, the program helps
Americans learn about people in other countries, their customs, their
similarities and their differences.
The Sister Schools
International program links youth in collaborative projects through classroom,
school or after-school activities. Students can engage in written, video or
webcast exchanges; leadership-building projects; fundraising campaigns; or
information, contact Claudia Lujan at 623-773-7739 or firstname.lastname@example.org.