Morgan students study Chinese New Year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 9, 2011

First-graders at Morgan Elementary School culminated their study of the Chinese New Year recently with a dragon dance, colorful parade and tasting of Chinese cuisine.
Some classes created a dragon for the dance. Dragons are an important part of Chinese culture and are considered friendly and helpful creatures associated with strength, good fortune, wisdom and longevity.
Students had Chinese hats made for them from a pattern devised by teacher assistant Barbara Ketchie, and those who weren’t in dragon costume carried lanterns or kites they had made. Some students played musical instruments.
All students were encouraged to wear red and black, and some students and teachers wore special costumes or Chinese clothing for the event. Students of other grades sat in the halls while the first-graders marched to the Chinese music played over the intercom.
The parade was made possible through the help of parent volunteers. Parent volunteers Denise Neigel, Lisa Trexler and Kendal Cline helped with the design of the dragons and made sure each student had a hat. They also helped to make the backgrounds for the Gung Hay Fat Choy (Chinese for “Happy New Year”) banners.
After the parade, students were treated to a tasting of Chinese food. They sampled beef and broccoli, sweet and sour chicken, pork fried rice, egg rolls, sweet biscuits and fortune cookies (which were created in America).
Retired teacher Kim Sheeks brought the food from the Panda Restaurant in Rockwell. The Panda prepared the large quantity of food and sent chopsticks so students would have the opportunity to try the unique eating utensils.
Sheeks also brought two visitors whose family originated from China. They talked to students about different traditions and customs that they still celebrate and use here in America. Students were eager to learn how to say many words in their native language.
Students began the study by reading a book describing how a family in Chinatown, N.Y., celebrates the holiday by highlighting some of the traditions and beliefs held by Chinese-Americans.
The first-grade social studies curriculum enables teachers to explore how people in various cultures celebrate special occasions in different ways. The celebration of the Chinese New Year culture easily lends itself to this aspect of the curriculum and can be correlated with other instructional objectives and activities.
During the course of the study, students learned about the 15-day festival, which begins on the first day of the first moon of the lunar calendar. The corresponding date in the solar calendar varies from as early as Jan. 21 to as late as Feb. 19. This year’s holiday began Feb. 3 and is known as the Year of the Rabbit.
The teachers incorporated the use of thinking maps to help students write about their experiences and comparisons of the Chinese New Year with other holidays. Chinese children get red envelopes with money as a part of the New Year celebration and wear masks to keep the evil spirits away during the New Year, the first graders could associate the New Year’s celebration with Halloween.
Since the holiday doesn’t always start the same day of the year, they could also associate it with Easter. They especially enjoyed learning and writing about the Chinese year in which they were born.
The Chinese New Year is a conglomeration of holiday traditions rolled up into one huge celebration.
Students created a cricket and learned about the important roll it plays as a pet and is said to bring good luck.
As an ending Impact Project students created a travel brochure that highlights the history of the Chinese New Year, foods to eat, sights to see and the zodiac sign that matches the year they were born. The brochures were made using a program in the computer lab at Morgan. The first- graders learned to use the computer as a learning tool and life long skill for learning skill for 21st Century Skills.
Samples of items are on display in the first grade hallway at Morgan.