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TCE partners with Confucius Institute for Chinese New Year

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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Hailed as risk-takers, third-graders at Tates Creek Elementary stepped up to perform for their peers and parents during the schoolwide Chinese New Year celebration. “In the showcase, we make music and Chinese culture together,” said teacher Hongfang Yang. “All the kids are very creative. This is the second year, so they know something deeper of the traditions like the dragon dance.”
Yang and colleague Na Liu, music teacher Regan Osterfeld and art teacher Rita Wimpy pulled together to plan the event, which was delayed three weeks because of snow days. Intervention teacher Denise Finley, who chairs the school’s Family & Community Engagement Committee, was also instrumental in coordinating staff and PTA resources. Playing a huge part was the Confucius Institute at the University of Kentucky, which provides leadership and support for Chinese language programs in K-12 classrooms. As Tates Creek’s ambassadors, for instance, STEM teacher Ashley Faulkner and third-grade teacher Mariam Al-Azzah will travel to China this summer courtesy of the Confucius Institute. UK sent a crew of volunteers to help with the TCE event March 12.
In addition to the third-graders’ dragon dance, highlights included songs, a play about the beast that villagers must scare away each year, drumming with a chant about eating utensils, and a Chinese poem. The narrators shared several examples and key points about the importance of Chinese traditions. UK students then demonstrated the horsehead fiddle, throat singing and the peacock dance. Colorful opera masks and ceramic bowls that TCE students had made in art class were displayed in the gym, and paper lanterns suspended from the ceiling ran the length of the hallways.
“This year the kids learned to say their names and how to make some of the Chinese handcrafts. Day by day, they are growing,” Yang said, crediting strong support from Fayette County Public Schools and UK.
Before the performance, children and families mingled in the cafeteria among several learning stations – calligraphy, painting, paper cutting, chopsticks and a tea ceremony. “They can follow the stations to learn and feel the Chinese culture,” Yang said beforehand. The Confucius Institute provided 20 door prizes, and the first 100 students through the door received a Chinese New Year pencil compliments of TCE. All the youngsters also got a bookmark for their Chinese Zodiac birth year. The evening’s events fit into TCE’s series of Parent Learning Nights, which have covered such areas as dance, science, and band/chorus/orchestra. The theme for the Chinese New Year celebration was “Sharing the Planet.”
“Becoming an International Baccalaureate school, we want to become internationally minded, so being able to see from another’s point of view is very important,” said Osterfeld, whovisited China last summer. She praised UK for helping expand the elementary students’ world and build their confidence, adding, “Being able to partner with such a great institute and see them perform, the kids see that they also can perform and present a culture that’s not their own.”