by Rudy Brandl, Wardlaw-Hartridge School Director of Communications
EDISON — A dragon made its way into the All-Purpose Room to signal the start of the Chinese New Year celebration at The Wardlaw-Hartridge School on Monday morning. For much of the rest of the week, the school recognized the international holiday with an impressive array of activities incorporating elementary, middle and high school students.
“I definitely saw a lot of enthusiasm,” said Hua Liu of East Brunswick, the school’s Chinese teacher. “It’s good to see that now the students know a lot about Chinese New Year. They jumped into the activities right away and they learned more about it.”
It started with the Upper School morning meeting presentation. International students from China marched in holding a big dragon to kick off the celebration and recognize the Year of the Dragon. They followed by making an announcement and gave a brief introduction of the holiday. Astuti Bhasin of Edison, a Level 2 Chinese student, taught the Upper School students how to say “Happy New Year” in Chinese.
All students in the Chinese classes then presented red envelopes to the international students from China as a way to show love and care for those who weren’t able to spend the most important holiday with their families. This is a Chinese tradition that Liu was happy to see her students embrace.
“This time they actually gave something to other students,” Liu said. “That made them really proud.”
Activities in Liu’s classroom began shortly after the morning meeting on Jan. 23 as the seventh graders made presentations to fifth graders. After hours of researching, discussing, writing, designing and practicing, the seventh graders made PowerPoint presentations on a variety of topics associated with Chinese New Year. The fifth graders listened to the presentations, tasted traditional food and made beautiful lanterns with the seventh graders.
“I learned a lot about Chinese culture from my project and others,” seventh grader Carlin Schildge of Westfield reflected. “I realized that Chinese New Year is a lot like our New Year – fancy and fun decorations, yummy food and sweet treat, even special music and performances.”
“Now that I have learned about this traditional holiday, I want to go to China and witness it myself,” seventh grader Noah Fischer of Parsippany added. “It seems really exciting.”
Throughout the week, sixth graders did arts and crafts, sang the Happy New Year song, and researched and presented holiday facts. Level 1 and 2 Chinese class students tasted traditional food and participated in a “Chopsticks Competition” and the winners received prizes.
Liu’s classroom was festive and open to visitors throughout the week. Traditional decorations adorned the room, which included beautiful red garments for visitors to wear and signs with characters, which stand for happiness, good luck and prosperity. Liu also shared candies that signify good luck with all visitors to the classroom. The outfits are traditional costumes worn in China at this time of year. The children and adults were welcome to try them on.
“They could be Chinese for one minute,” Liu said.
Lower School students visited the Chinese classroom throughout the week. The children really enjoyed parading around the room with the dragon. Liu also prepared instructions for the Lower School students to make lanterns in their own classroom.
“They can show their parents and their friends,” Liu said. “It’s a way to promote Chinese to people outside of our classroom. Our program goes beyond the Chinese classroom.”
Thanks to a grant from the Asia Society and inclusion in the Confucius Classrooms Network, the Wardlaw-Hartridge program also goes beyond the continent. This week, Liu’s students began making holiday cards to be mailed to students in China. Wardlaw-Hartridge is in the process of building a relationship with a partner school in China.
“All of these celebration activities teach them many things,” Liu said. “It lets them experience not just by reading but by doing things. They can see it’s not just happening in our one classroom here. They do it for students in other classes and other grades from Upper to Middle to Lower. There’s a great connection between the students here and the students in China.”
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