Brazil students

Students from the Núcleo de Interação Educativa school in Jaú, Brazil, pose for a picture in front of Sunrise Elementary in Smithfield during a recent visit to Utah.

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Thirty students from Brazil visited both Sunrise Elementary School and North Cache Middle School this week, and Brazilian and American students alike have developed friendships as well as language skills.

The Brazilian students, from the Núcleo de Interação Educativa school in Jaú, Brazil, stayed in Logan from Jan. 1-8 and helped teach classes in Portuguese immersion programs at Sunrise and North Cache.

“That’s the reason why we’re here,” said Andre Oliveira, the principal at NIE, “to help in Portuguese classes like they did two years ago with English in our school.”

The NIE students and their American friends have had a week full of fun activities as well, including visits to Pizza Pie Cafe, Crystal Hot Springs, the Jump Zone, attending a Utah State University basketball game, and sledding.

“Most of them have never seen the snow,” Oliveira said. “The interaction with the American students were so good.”

Stacy Blauer, a third-grade teacher at Sunrise Elementary School, said they’ve kept the students busy, trying to make the most of the visit.

“We’ve tried to let them experience as much as they could in Cache Valley,” Blauer said.

Sunrise Elementary and NIE first connected because a teacher working at NIE had a sister who taught Portuguese at Sunrise Elementary. In July 2017, Oliveira was asked if he would host students visiting from Logan.

“We had two objectives when we formed this partnership,” said Brian Higginbotham, a parent of three children who attend both Sunrise and North Cache. “We wanted our kids to … have more awareness of other cultures and more confidence in their abilities to function in those cultures.”

In June of 2018 talk of a visit became reality when 17 students from Sunrise Elementary and other dual-language immersion programs in Cache valley visited Jaú.

“It was amazing to go to Brazil and to learn about the culture, because they are learning Portuguese. It was neat for them to use it in another country,” Blauer said. “We had such great relationships when we were there. We went to Rio after, and we had so much fun there, but we said, ‘We miss our friends in Jaú.’”

Many of the kids and parents from the 2018 trip have kept in contact via social media and were happily reunited last week.

According to Higginbotham, traveling to Brazil and now hosting their Brazilian counterparts in Logan have given his children a better understanding not only of Portuguese but a new outlook on the world as a whole.

“They have a greater awareness of how similar we are despite our cultural differences, as well as a greater awareness of how fun differences are across cultures,” Higginbotham said.

Derek Beer, principal at Sunrise Elementary, is hopeful that this won’t be the last visit one school makes to another, although no concrete travel plans are currently in place.

“We’re planning on continuing this,” Beer said. “I’ve been at multiple dual-language immersion schools, and this is kind of my dream of what we should be doing. We teach the language, but by us visiting them, them visiting us, what we’re doing is teaching the culture.”

The Brazilian visitors have left Logan and moved on to Los Angeles, where they will go to Disneyland and Universal Studios, among other things, according to Oliveira.

“They’re such good friends now, so I hope that we’ll always keep in contact with them,” Blauer said. “One thing that we’ve learned is that the world isn’t that small after all.”

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