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City of Peoria Press Release

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Peoria Third-Graders Discover Peers in Northern Ireland

Oasis Elementary Pupils Find Foreign Pen Pals Through Sister Cities Contacts


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 more.

Lehman’s third-graders 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 Peoria.

“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 tailored projects.

For more information, contact Claudia Lujan at 623-773-7739 or claudia.lujan@peoriaaz.gov.