Night Around the World Brings Corinth, Rosehill Together

Night Around the World Brings Corinth, Rosehill Together
Shawnee Mission School District

It was an exciting moment for Kindergartner Gus Sachse.

After writing with his pen pal Felix during the school year, a cultural events night hosted by their schools this spring gave them a chance to meet for the first time.

Gus Sachse is from Corinth Elementary and his pen pal Felix is from Rosehill Elementary.

They had been writing about their experience at school lunch, about reading books, and about hoping to meet. 

“Having a pen pal is so fun!” Gus expressed at the event.

“One Night Around the World,” the occasion designed to connect Gus and Felix in the same space, was about bringing people together. Rosehill and Corinth joined in hosting this cultural events night to help family members, students, and educators learn about each other and the world around them.

As many students met in one room dedicated to uniting pen pals from both schools, attendees also toured Rosehill Elementary. Throughout the building they could taste food samples, create arts and crafts, and listen to read-aloud and family presentations focused on cultures around the globe. 

The elementary schools are located in different feeder patterns and are roughly 7 miles away from each other. But, they collaborated with a common purpose of honoring Strategy 2 in the Shawnee Mission School District strategic plan “We will relentlessly create a fully unified, equitable, and inclusive culture.” Collaborating and coming together has carried out what “stronger together is all about in the SMSD,” Corinth Principal Michelle Lord shared.

“We are two schools coming together as one to create impact and awareness,” Lord expressed. “We are promoting positive relationships which honors diversity and equity by recognizing our students and families in the SMSD community and valuing all through an inclusive culture and climate.”

Pen Pal Connections

After receiving letters from his pen pal, Gus Sachse would frequently come home and talk excitedly, Brandi Sachse, parent, shared. She was also excited for Gus to get the chance to make this connection and learn during the collaborative event.

“It’s awesome having the two schools come together,” added Sachse.

Leading up to the cultural events night, students in multiple grades at both schools took part in exchanging letters as pen pals. The project was a hit throughout the year and also helped reinforce academic goals, Karen Collins, third grade teacher at Rosehill shared.

“I hoped to give my students opportunities to hone their skills through authentic writing experiences and also help make a positive social connection,” Collins shared. “Through their letters, they found out they had similar interests and a lot in common. They also could not wait to write back. They were excited about writing!”

Seeing all of the pen pals and students from both schools in such a large attendance was “shocking in the best way possible,” Grace Adler, second-grade teacher from Corinth Elementary shared. As pen pals met, Adler said she saw several families exchange contact information so they could stay in touch.

“I loved seeing my students so engaged,” Adler expressed. “I had students tell me things like, ‘This was the best night of my life!’ and ‘I wish this night would never end!’. The students were excited and were able to experience foods, languages, and customs.”

Cultural Event Presentations

Students, family members, and staff shared presentations throughout the building highlighting cultures and places throughout the world.

Daniel Ngugi, a fourth grader from Rosehill presented items from East African countries with family members.

Their table included masks, sculptures, and clothing for visitors to see. The entire event was a lot of fun, Ngugi expressed.

“I like learning about how bringing people together in a great big world can equal a great big time,” he added.

Stella Schlichting, a fourth-grader from Corinth, joined her grandmother in presenting about Greece. Part of their presentation included food samples they had cooked, like baklava and tzatziki dip. She was enjoying the opportunity to share food with people and also hear their reactions.

“I think this is going to help by showing how everybody is different but we are also all the same in a lot of ways,” Schlichting shared.

Shawnee Mission South Arabic Honor Society members were also among the presenters. The high school students helped attendees learn how to introduce themselves in Arabic and also wrote attendee names in Arabic. Junior Will Siegel said he was glad for the opportunity to raise awareness about Arab culture. He hoped some might develop an interest like he did in the possibility of pursuing a future in translating.

Several students from Anna Terlouw’s fifth-grade class at Corinth hosted presentations about their cultures and backgrounds.

“I think they felt proud to share information about what defines them as individuals while helping build bridges through shared experiences,” Terlouw expressed.

She noted there were activities appropriate for attendees from the littlest learners to people who have long-since graduated.

“I learned details about different cultures that I hadn’t been aware of before that evening,” she added.

The amount of time, energy, and resources each family put into their presentations was incredible, said Martha Ayalla, ELL teacher and innovation specialist at Rosehill Elementary. Presenters expressed how thankful they were to be able to share the information with the school community, she added.

“It showed how much our families have to offer if we only give them the opportunity,” Ayalla shared. “This was echoed throughout the night and in the days after as students and staff mentioned how much they learned and how fun and rich the entire event was.” 

The event also featured performances by the Gateway Highsteppers (joined at one point by school principals and staff) and Folklorico Dance Group.

 The large attendance spoke volumes about the two school communities wanting to engage and learn with and from one another, Toni Moore, ELL teacher at Rosehill noted. There is hope that other schools in the district can use this event as a model for their own.

The event was such a success that both schools have already put a placeholder on the calendar for the future, Moore added.