Clarendon Elementary celebrates Chinese New Year
By Lucia Suarez
STAFF WRITER | January 05,2013
Albert J. Marro / Staff Photo
Students at Clarendon Elementary School got a jump on the Chinese New Year 2013 on Friday with a daylong celebration. The actual Chinese New Year is Feb. 10.
CLARENDON — Just after lunch on Friday, Zhang Ying-lei told a group of fourth-graders at Clarendon Elementary School that Chinese brush painting is “something different, something very special.”
“You can always practice your Chinese art,” Zhang told the students.
Zhang’s workshop Friday was part of the school’s daylong cultural day celebrating the end of the year of the dragon in the Chinese Lunar Calendar.
“A lot of work went into this day and it’s worth it,” said school principal Fred Valastro. “The kids get to pick up a different culture.”
The school’s art teacher Clare Bornarth said it is really important to learn about other cultures and did not want the Chinese New Year to pass without teaching the students about it.
“We wanted the children to move and learn about math and literature and the different art forms,” she said.
The start of the Chinese Lunar Calendar usually falls in January or February and is represented by one of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. The next — the year of the snake — will start on Feb. 10.
As part of the celebration, students and teachers participated in a handful of workshops that introduced them to Chinese art, folk tales, literature, mathematics, and Tai Chi, as well as other topics.
“I learned about the different food and how the emperors always wore a lot of stuff with dragons,” said Ty LaVictorie, 11. “We learned that there are different ways to speak Chinese and Mandarin is the most popular.”
The school teamed up with the Greater Rutland Asian Studies Project and the Asian Studies Outreach program at the University of Vermont to invite various guest teachers who grew up in China or have a connection to the country.
“It’s very interesting. People who have lived in China have been showing us the idiosyncrasies of life in China,” Valastro said. “The kids are learning a little bit of everything. It’s unique.”
Ping Clark, who has lived in the United States for 21 years, was on hand to teach students how to write numbers and names in Mandarin, China’s official language. She said the students really enjoyed when she wrote their names in Chinese character.
“They have fun,” Clark said. “Some are really good at writing in Chinese and asking questions about China.”
“The kids were great,” said Rich Marantz, director of Green Mountain Tai Chi in Manchester, who taught students the basic principles of Tai Chi. “Any time you can get to expose kids to another culture is great.“
For sixth-grader Eli Crofoot, 11, one of his favorite parts of the day was learning about the dragon and the different cultural relationships in China and in the United States.
“In America dragons are evil,” he said during lunch. “In China, dragons are the most positive thing.”
Gabriel Walters, 11, said the story of how the Chinese New Year started was what he enjoyed. He said an evil spirit would always eat people’s food, but someone told them to dress in red, have a lot of lights and to make a lot of noise to send him away.
“Those were the things he was scared of,” Gabriel said.
The day ended with a Chinese Dragon Parade and Naxi Dance put on by the sixth-grade class.
Valastro said he hopes this year’s cultural day will kick-start a new annual tradition at the school.
“Especially in a rural school, students are very sheltered,” he said. “To have kids experience different cultures is great.”