SALT RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY - Aleoni Patrick, a 10-year-old fifth grader at the Salt River Elementary School in Scottsdale, enjoys drawing cartoons and selecting postage stamps for her letters to her special pen pal.
Patrick is one of about 40 fifth graders in Dr. Keith Idso and Mrs. Erlinda Allen's classes who is participating in a National Football League (NFL) program called "One World: Connecting Communities, Cultures and Classrooms."
The NFL, working with renowned educational leader Scholastic, has created an Arizona Super Bowl Edition of its nationally acclaimed "One World" program.
The Salt River Elementary School is the only Native American school participating in the program in the Phoenix-area where students are encouraged to respect and strengthen the connections among students from diverse communities, while teaching youth to recognize that the choices they make about themselves and others can and do, make a difference in the world.
The NFL is working with seven elementary schools in Phoenix and surrounding communities to celebrate the diversity and heritage unique to the state of Arizona. In addition to implementing the four diversity themed lesson plans, each classroom is paired with a school from another community through a pen-pal relationship.
"They're all excited about the project," Allen said of her students. "They're excited to have a pen-pal!"
Earlier that day the class received their second letter.
"We found out about our pen pals," Allen said. "We also talked about understanding differences."
Allen said she and her students talked about being accepting to others and not to judge people. She noted that being respectful is a school-wide rule at the Salt River Elementary School. The other school rules taught at the school are being safe and responsible.
Allen said she and her students talked about how they should treat people from diverse cultural background and having self-awareness.
"They get excited about writing to someone," Dr. Idso said. "All people are the same, there's no difference in all of us. [The goal is] just having them understand."
The NFL works with elementary schools in Phoenix and surrounding communities to celebrate the diversity and heritage unique to the state of Arizona.
In addition to implementing the four diversity-themed lesson plans, each classroom will be paired with a school from another community through a pen pal relationship. The classroom matches will strive to pair students with children of varying racial/ethnic backgrounds to break down any racial barriers among students and to help youngsters understand how much youth throughout the state have in common.
Shehg' Hiosik Galindo, a 10-year-old fifth grader at the Salt River Elementary School, is looking forward to getting to know her special pen pal.
"I'm excited because I get to know someone different," said Shehg' Hiosik which means "Pretty Flower," in the Tohono O'odham language. "I get to learn about someone from a different school."
After completing the series of new One World lesson plans, each class will work as a group on a community-building art project. Participating students will then have the opportunity to attend an event during Super Bowl week, where they will meet their pen pals for the first time and combine their individual projects to create a united creative art piece representative of the entire state of Arizona.
Designed for the post-9/11 era, the One World program encourages children to respect one another, value diversity, and take positive actions to build stronger, more inclusive communities. The One World program meets national standards in social studies, language arts, geography, and life skills/health.
Students such as Brianna Adans, age 11, and Monicia Martinez, age 10, have learned to respect and be accepting of people who are seemingly different. There are other aspects of the program that heighten the students' interest.
"It was fun," Brianna said. "We talk about stuff like what we do and what we do in class."
One student Kayle Ray remembers details from her second letter she received from her 11-year-old pen pal who likes spaghetti, pizza and salad.
"She likes blue, pink and white," Ray recalled as she smiled. "She would like for us to meet [and that's] exciting."
Her teacher, Dr. Idso, said that letter "had an impact on her."
Monicia remembers her pen pal's favorite numbers from her second letter.
"They are seven, 17 and 27," Monicia said. "She asked a lot of questions."
Kody Williams, age 9, said so far he and his classmates have received one letter.
"I was excited to know someone from Phoenix," Kody said. "It's really fun; you get to communicate with other people."
Marquis Benally, age 11, discovered that he and his pen pal have a lot in common such as playing soccer.
"It felt good because you get to open [the letter] and communicate. You get to see what they do and what they like to do."
Benally said through the "One World," program he's learned to show respect by listening and communicating with people from all walks of life. His experience with the "One World" program enabled him to reach out to another student and have fun.
He said the program allowed him to learn something important about other people. "You make a new friend," Marquis said.
For more information about the program, go to www.scholastic.com/oneworld.
For more information on the Salt River Elementary School, call the SRPMIC Community Relations Department at (480) 850-8056.
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