Even though you don’t know anything about Chinese language, from the rhythm of this song, surely enough you feel the atmosphere of celebrating a holiday. Actually, kindergarteners did an excellent job. Their happy faces and the mimicking sound of the drum “dong qiang, dong qiang, dong dong qiang” definitely leave the image in your mind. So everybody, welcome to celebrating the tradition of Chinese culture!
In our kindergarten science studies we have been learning about the mammal animal group and our math topic is measurement, so we wove the two concepts together with a big job, measuring the largest animal to ever live: the blue whale. I asked the class to bring a whale in but did not have any volunteers so we had to make do with a paper version! We learned that a blue whale can be up to 90 feet long, but just how long is that? Since it was longer than any of our class rulers, we decided to mark the measurement with an more unconventional tool, our arms! First we measured a student to determine that the standard arm span of a kindergartener was about 3 feet. Since we have 10 students we multiplied to find that the arm span of the whole class was about 30 feet. Using these calculations, we estimated that it would take 3 lines of our class to get up to 90 feet. Armed with this mathematical information we headed outside to a big space for our measuring. First marking our starting point with a whale tail, we carefully stretched ourselves out 3 times. Once we reached the end we added a whale head and all stood back to observe just how big the biggest animal is.
Our kindergarten thespians have been learning about friendship. We have been reading and writing stories about being good friends and learning how to navigate sometimes difficult interactions with friends. The kindergarteners were thrilled to visit the PreK-3 and PreK-4 classes and demonstrate what they have learned. We performed several skits modeling what good friends do. The scenarios involved sharing, taking turns, helping, working cooperatively and even standing up for a friend. It’s hard to tell who enjoyed the show more – the audience or the actors!
On a crisp December afternoon, kindergarteners headed over to Sport Hill Farm to ask the question, What does a farmer do in the Winter? As with most of our science lessons, we began by making predictions before the experience. Students very astutely guessed that a farmer must care for the animals even in the winter, and Patti Popp sure does! Even in the snow, she must clear a path and feed her chickens and pigs as well as keep them safe from predators. On our trip, we got a chance to see both, as well as feed and pet the chickens. We visited the greenhouse where some hardy plants were growing and learned more about the winter crops. Patti explained that a big part of her winter is spent planning for next year as crops need to be rotated and ordering seeds to plant in spring. We headed up to the lovely loft above the store and took a turn at plucking corn kernels from a cob, no easy task! Next was a real treat, Patti’s homegrown popcorn, popped right before our eyes using just a bit of coconut oil! Heavenly, if you haven’t tried some run right over and grab a few ears.
As a Mandarin teacher I am always amazed with my students’ enthusiasm for immersing themselves into culture differences while also appreciating their own culture. This year in class students did an experiment using the style of Chinese culture used to celebrate a traditional American holiday — Thanksgiving.
As the above photos have demonstrated, kindergarteners used the traditional Chinese fan to draw pictures and color the characters for Happy Thanksgiving. For the same purpose, grade 1 made their own Chinese lanterns. To my surprise during the school Thanksgiving feast, grade 1 students volunteered to bring their own lanterns to the feast to show their work to the community. With the beautiful drawing and character handwriting, grade 2 students made their holiday cards look quite unique and impressive.
Even with the traditional concept of expressing the gratitude with the heart shape, the character handwriting, craft materials and the drawing about the holiday revealed seamlessly the combination of American culture and Chinese culture in third and fourth grade student work. Grade 5 and 6 student work led the culmination of the combination of two cultures with their impressive handwriting and drawing on the small gourds.
This experiment turned out to be a quite pleasant experience for students to celebrate their traditional holiday. It has also boosted student interest and curiosity to explore more. Two weeks later, I received the request from most of my classes, “ Zhang Laoshi, can we do something for Christmas like we did for Thanksgiving? Please. Please.” Happily enough we all realized next December in class we will be busy with another holiday 圣诞节 (sheng dan jie, Christmas). Merry Christmas, everybody!
Oola’s mom, Susan, came and shared her artistic talents with us recently. First she read a story about the beauty in making mistakes. We made beautiful water color paintings on paper that she had carefully stenciled a bird onto beforehand. Once the paintings were dry, the medium was scraped off to reveal the form of a bird. To close the activity, Susan read a favorite poem by Emily Dickinson. All the children were given a copy and a print of a lovely bird. An excerpt from the poem follows:
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all”