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Valley Journals

Draper Elementary welcomes Year of the Dog

Apr 06, 2018 10:52AM ● By Julie Slama

Draper Elementary second-graders used traditional fans as part of their program during the school’s Chinese New Year celebration. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Draper Elementary fifth-grader Monet Oaks said her favorite part of the Chinese New Year assembly was performing to poetry from the Tang Dynasty.

“I learned different things this year about the Chinese culture than I had others,” she said. “We learned that these poems have been sung for more than 1,000 years and represent that period of life.”

Monet and her classmates demonstrated four famous Tang Dynasty poems through singing, reading and performing.

Fifth-grade Chinese teacher Nissa Lu said the poems are famous in China.

“Everyone in China knows them,” she said. “The fifth-graders are learning about the culture, not just singing songs. They are able to tell why this is important as well as why we do what we do to celebrate.” 

The students’ instruction about the Tang Dynasty and their assembly performance was all given in Mandarin.

“By the time these students are fifth-graders, they’re able to fully have a conversation with me in Chinese. Their abilities are very good,” said Lu, who came from Taiwan and is teaching her second year at Draper Elementary.

First-graders included bright colors with traditional fans in their performance of singing “Jasmine Flower.”

“It’s a famous song about the jasmine flower. First-graders already have learned so much of the language; it’s impressive,” Lu said. 

Second-graders showcased their knowledge of kung fu. Their presentation was mixed with using fans, poetry and music. They also thanked parents, teachers, friends and nature for helping them learn and grow.

Third-graders played instruments and danced to the traditional “White Horse” song that is based on stories from the journey westward, and “Fireflies,” a song of praise.

“It’s a pop song in China that everyone knows. It praises nature. It’s a song about as long as you work hard, you can achieve it,” Lu said about “Fireflies.”

Fourth-graders started the program with the traditional dragon dance and lion dance that wove amongst students and parents seated in the multipurpose room on Feb. 12. There were two assemblies so all parents could see the showcase.

Fourth-grader Chloe Francis said they practiced the dance over a couple weeks.

“We learned what we should do, how to make it move and wave, and how we shouldn’t scare anyone,” she said, adding that they also went over traditions of the new year as a class.

She and her friend, Sarah Edmunds, were lions in the morning assembly and planned to be part of the dragon dance in the afternoon.

Classmate Brecklin Bijou said that after first learning the language in first grade, they’ve built upon learning more about the customs and traditions.

“It was a challenge at first to learn the language, but since then, it’s been fun learning the culture,” she said.

The fourth-graders also sang songs, played the guitar and performed skits.

“They acted as if they were foreigners in China, pretending that they were tourists and apologizing that their Chinese isn’t any good. It’s a fun song,” Lu said.

While the assembly ended with the common Chinese New Year song wishing everyone “gong xi” or “congratulations,” Lu said this celebration isn’t common in schools when she grew up.

“We would celebrate in our hometowns or our community, but not at school since we’d be on break,” she said.

Fifth-grader Mckenna Wong celebrates Chinese New Year at her home.

“My dad cooks Chinese food for our new year’s party and we have red envelopes which represent luck for the year,” she said. “I thought the second-graders’ kung fu was really cool, but everyone worked so hard. That’s what the dual-immersion program teaches you — to work hard in everything so you can complete what you set your mind to.”