From Japan: One bear of a gift for Utah students

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    By AUTUMN C. FOSTER

    For the next two months, a stuffed bear from the Nagano (Japan) School for the Deaf will travel to 20 classrooms in the Utah School for the Deaf and Blind.

    The bear, Rou-Taro: “Friendship Bear,” is part of the “One School, One Country Education Project,” which is designed to teach students about the Olympic spirit of friendship.

    USDB was one of four schools in the United States chosen by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) to participate in the project.

    “One School, One Country” was originated by the Nagano Olympic Planning Committee and organized by the International Olympic Committee to teach school children about building friendships with people from other countries.

    USDB students across the state gathered at various locations and were linked to Utah State University via satellite for a student assembly Jan. 15.

    Against the backdrop of the Olympic flag flown in Barcelona, speakers including Olympic athletes encouraged the students to strive to be champions and to look to the future.

    Claudia Raab, USDB project coordinator for the event, then presented Rou-Taro to the students.

    The bear was accompanied by a note saying he “wanted” to travel throughout the state of Utah and “make as many friends” as possible. After he has traveled in the 20 participating classrooms, he will return to Nagano.

    In return for Rou Taro, USDB is sending the Utah Jazz Bear, donated by the Utah Jazz, to the Nagano School.

    Students at USDB also got the opportunity to learn about Olympic sports.

    USOC contacted USDB in mid-October, said Claudia Raab, program director for USDB.

    The students have been researching different sports and aspects of the Olympics since early November, said Glenda Collins, teacher of the Oral Class for hearing impaired students at Lakeridge Junior High School in Orem.

    They have made booklets about Winter Olympic sports and put together items for a “time capsule” to send to Nagano, she said.

    “Hearing impaired kids need a lot of experience with the world in general,” Collins said. “We will be building tremendous amounts of new vocabulary, and it’s a really nice opportunity to learn about the cultures of another country.”

    The project has been an effective learning experience for the students in Collins’ class.

    One student, 9th grader David Watkins, said he learned how the originator of Olympic bobsledding won 17 gold medals.

    Another student, Melanie Madsen, said she learned the spirit of the Olympics is reflected in the rings of the Olympic flag.

    “All countries’ colors are represented in the rings,” she said.

    Students Cameron Wilson and Jared Evans said they learned the Olympic spirit is about making friends in other countries.

    “We’re planning to keep communication with (the Nagano School for the Hearing Impaired) until the Olympics in 2002,” Collins said.

    This is the first year the “One School, One Country Education Project” has been undertaken,” Raab said. It will be continued in the future.

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