Friday, February 04, 2011

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

I have no personal experiences with celebrating Chinese New Year other than what we've been doing at Woodland Park for the past 9 years. There are always a few of our families who celebrate with special food at home or a trip to Chinatown for a lion dance or a dragon parade, although the heavy use of firecrackers often keeps many of them away until the kids are a little older. But mostly we're in the position of reading about it in books, then executing our celebration the way we see fit, which makes it a perfect holiday for preschool.

I've already written about some of the books we rely on, most of which seem to come from the brilliant author/illustrator Demi, such as The Boy Who Painted Dragons, Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!, and Demi's Dragons and Fantastic Creatures. I also read Steven Chin's Dragon Parade: A Chinese New Year Story to the older kids. I love how it ties in the wave of Chinese immigration to the US during the 1800's. And Karen Chinn's Sam And The Lucky Money has become a standard, with its message of compassion for those less "lucky" than us. There are others we use on a kind of ad hoc basis, but it's largely from these sources that we've cobbled together a week or two of rice, chopsticks, and leisees (red envelopes in which children receive "lucky" money) in the sensory table, painting dragons, creating good luck banners, generally decorating and cleaning, and, naturally, making lots of noise with our percussion instruments (in lieu of firecrackers).

Several years ago, the families gave me a gift certificate to Archie McPhee 
("Slightly less disappointing than other companies") as a holiday
present and this lion head is what I bought with it.

And then there is always building our classroom dragon. Last year's was made mostly from tape, but since tape fever really hasn't hit the classroom this year, we went a different direction.

We started with the old preschool standby of using these vintage turntables to spin out dozens of swirly paper plate dragon body parts.

We then attached them all together with brads (metal paper fasteners).

This all took part over the course of the week, and involved both our 3-5 and Pre-3 classes. We made a very, very long dragon body. When we unfurled it, it started on one side of the classroom . . .

. . . and ran all the way to the other . . .

. . . then turned back again. Isak counted 66 body parts in all and he's pretty reliable about those kinds of things.

The advantage of this year's dragon over last years, was that I was pretty sure we could safely pick it up and carry it around for our own dragon parade. Last year's tape dragon was beautiful, but wound up heavy and awkward, so we just hung it up on the wall. My plan was to wear our dragon head (really a lion head, but we use it for both purposes) and have the kids carry the body along behind me. But first we had to try out the dragon head for ourselves.

We put it on and bounced up and down to the cacophony of drums, bells and other instruments echoing off the walls of our room.

It's a whole new world from inside of there.

And being inside of the lion/dragon gave us new ways to interact with our friends.

Meanwhile, smaller groups of our friends were breaking off to visit professional tabla player Chaz Hastings in our gym where he entertained and enlightened them with his masterful drumming and storytelling.

Finally, we got to our dragon parade itself. Every child chose to participate, carrying a part of our dragon body, which wound up coming apart into dozens of smaller pieces as the brads gave way under the herks and jerks of 20 pairs of hands trying to move it around. (There's a reason the real dragon paraders have to rehearse so much!) 

At first we kept stopping to repair the thing, but then decide to soldier on with our dragon in many parts, moving from the gym, around our outdoor classroom, back to the indoor classroom, then one more loop around the outdoors before heading back inside. I have some repair work to do this morning so our Pre-3 class can perform their own parade today.

And then because the new year is a time to make old things new, we broke out the paint and put a fresh coat of paint on our beach hut, which is these days most often referring to as the "house boat."

Our celebration will continue into next week when we will be visited by a Chinese dance teacher and storyteller, likely bumping up against our Valentine's preparations, but that's okay, we now know that hearts and Chinese New Year's do mix.

Gung hay fat choy!

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MOM #1 said...

I've been doing some grammar tutoring online with Chinese students and they are taking 2 full weeks off for Chinese New Year / Spring Festival.

I was able to attend a virtual seminar/training session regarding the Chinese New Year, and it's been so interesting to learn about a whole different culture and festivities. I admit I was WOEFULLY ignorant, but have enjoyed the education so much!

Your kids really made an impressive dragon. What fun!

Barbara Zaborowski said...

We did a dragon parade this year with a great puppet head and a body made of decorated butcher paper. But, oh, am I envious of your wonderful lion's head!

Juliet Robertson said...

Kung Hey Fat Choi!

I am wearing red as it is a lucky colour!

Play for Life said...

WIth our school year always beginning in the last days of January/early February we never had the opportunity to really experience Chinese New Year Celebrations with our kinder children ... the thought of introducing them to kinder AND dragons was just too much for me and Sherry. I'm really sorry we never got to do it though.

DOnna :) :)

monet said...

Teacher Tom you ROCK! I love the dragon! and thanks for the inspiration, I've got two Technics turntables in my living room that my son loves, and yet, we've never done spin art! I'm on it!

Unknown said...

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
You inspired me to try to introduce Chinese New Year this year! We had a great time, although not nearly on as grand a scale as you guys at Woodland Park! Looks like you had BIG fun! Woo Hoo! :)

Kate @ An Everyday Story said...

I need to get me one of those old turn tables! Its pure genius. Hmm wonder if my local charity store would have one. I've been trying to figure out how I was going to do spin-art for ages. Awesome.

Barbara Zaborowski said...

Kate, salad spinners also work well for spin art. I have an electrical spinner that was given to my own children years ago, but my preschool class prefer the salad spinners. I think it's the lid. They like the suspense of not seeing the art while it's being made. They enjoy lifting the lid to see the finished product. That's my guess anyway.

If you have access to a turntable, there's an interesting science experiment you can use it for. Plug it in and stack wooden cubes or other small blocks on it. Then turn it on. For the most part, they go flying, but not always. Challenge the kids to figure out how or where to stack the blocks so that they stay on the spinning turntable.

And, Tom, I was looking online for a dragon head to buy and came across directions for making one out of papier mache. Next year!