Lone Peak students learn about Chinese New Year through activities, traditionsMar 08, 2023 04:19PM ● By Julie Slama
Lone Peak Elementary fifth-graders practice their calligraphy during the school’s Chinese New Year festivities. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
Lone Peak third-grader Piper Sim made a red lantern and folded a rabbit envelope in honor of the Year of the Rabbit she was learning about in her Mandarin class.
“I know some about the history of Chinese New Year,” she said. “Someday, I want to work in China and learn karate.”
She and her schoolmates, both those in neighborhood and in dual immersion classes, participated in the lunar year celebration held in the decorated multi-purpose room. Several student art projects honoring the celebration hung in the nearby hallways.
“The kids are excited to be able to do activities to participate in Chinese New Year and experience a bit of their festivities and culture,” said Jackie Ball, PTA volunteer and organizer of this year’s event.
Students could create shapes and animals at the tangram station, try their hands at picking up objects with chopsticks, practice their calligraphy, or play traditional games.
Parent Brooke Bendixen, who serves as the PTA legislative vice president, said that before the celebration this year, the PTA surveyed students if they’d rather have a traditional assembly or interactive crafts and games.
“We asked the kids and they wanted to have hands-on activities,” she said. “It’s a fun way that gives all our students a chance to learn about the culture.”
That idea of learning the culture and unifying the school was one of the reasons, along with having an opportunity for Chinese teachers to feel at home and share their traditions with students, that a small group of dual immersion parents began the Chinese New Year tradition in 2013.
The year before, the celebration consisted of a teacher beating the drum in the hallway.
Since 2014, the PTA has held events and activities for the student body, some years with grant money funded by the Confucius Institute.
Through the years, there have been activities similar to this year, where students have learned about marionettes, Chinese jump roping, ribbon dancing, Chinese shuttlecock, jianzi or martial arts. Or students may have been part of a schoolwide assembly. Those have featured a play about the Monkey King, the lion and dragon dances, and a shadow puppet show as well as bringing in outside groups to perform.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lone Peak volunteers created Chinese New Year activity boxes for each room along with prepackaged Chinese treats and a video shared from Chinese students who were practicing their English.
The activities have evolved and changed through the years. Parent volunteer Sarah Erwin was helping at the calligraphy station.
“Years ago, we started off using traditional rice paper and Chinese hairbrushes and students would be able to trace and learn the words for prosperity and peace and those kind of good fortune words,” she said. “We’ve switched to paper because it’s a little more absorbent and black paint that washes off. The students still outline the words and can decorate it however they want. The fifth-graders used a lot with gold paint and it was super creative.”
At the end of the celebration, every student received a traditional red envelope.
“We filled each red envelope with a coin and good fortune for the year ahead,” Ball said. “It’s a wonderful way for students to understand and value each other and our cultures.”