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Culture in the classroom
A Spring Hill school uses the Chinese New Year as a framework for all kinds of learning.
By Paulette Lash Ritchie, Times Correspondent
Published February 21, 2008
Jakob Dekker, 9, demonstrates dexterity with the Chinese dining utensils. He was able to snag a candy heart.
[Will Vragovic | Times]
SPRING HILL - Faced with a tray of dried peas and beans, uncooked grains of rice, white chocolate chips and large candy hearts, Westside Elementary School students struggled with chopsticks.
As they accumulated piles of the things that they managed to pick up, they graphed their results.
That is how teacher Glenda Shea slipped math into one of the many activities she planned for Westside's nine fourth-grade classes to mark the Chinese New Year, the year of the rat, which began Feb. 7 and runs for 15 days.
"It's really a neat way for them to learn a lot about something in a very short time," Shea said.
She also tucked reading, art and eye-hand coordination into lessons that taught something about Chinese culture.
"And it's a chance for them to learn that learning can be fun," she said.
Earlier in the week, the children had taken the state writing test. They had worked hard, she said, and this was a "treat after FCAT Writing."
The activities included making a "laisee," which Shea described as "a pocket with a gold coin that they give to each other in the new year to wish each other wealth." At other tables, students made Chinese calendars, bookmarks and scrolls with Chinese characters on them.
They fumbled with the chopsticks, read books about Chinese culture, drew pandas, constructed lanterns and made dragon puppets. They munched on pineapple chunks and fortune cookies. Parents and teachers paid for the event.
Hannah Vazquez, 10, liked making the Chinese scroll. "It's fun," she said, "because you get to see what symbols are, and you get to try to draw them."
Tara Wilshusen, 10, agreed. "I'd say doing the scroll, writing the different words in the Chinese language."
Brooke Allen, 10, had a different favorite, saying it was fun to "make a dragon puppet, because you got to color and put it on a bag, and every time you put your hand in the bag, it talks."
Joseph Velez, 11, said, "My favorite thing that I want to do is over there at the chopsticks." Joseph has a Japanese friend who is trying to teach him how to eat with the tricky utensils.
Kevinesha Roberts, 11, was interested "to see what kind of animal was in the year 1996. It was a rat." Kevinesha was born in 1996.
She said she learned "that if you put a coin and write down a fortune and put it in a box in your house, your house will be clean for the beginning of the new year."
There was no question as to what Aaron Boyd, 10, liked to do the most during this celebration of the Chinese New Year.