First graders celebrate Chinese New Year

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Mon., Feb. 7, 2011
First-graders from Colchester Elementary School participate in a Chinese New Year celebration. Photos by Melanie Savage.
First-graders from Colchester Elementary School participate in a Chinese New Year celebration. Photos by Melanie Savage.

“The country of China is part of the first-grade social studies curriculum,” said Colchester Elementary School teacher Roslyn Etra. “The lessons focus on multicultural diversity activities, which bring an awareness of another country. Students compare and contrast the native people to the traditions here in the United States.”

In Colchester, every effort is made to integrate the arts with the regular classroom curriculum. Part of this effort is the Chinese New Year celebration. This is the third year that first-graders have participated in the event. In preparation for the assembly, students worked with Etra during music class to decorate bowls used for the heads of a Chinese Rattle Drum. “A parent visited during the music lessons to teach the children how to count in Chinese and other Chinese words,” said Etra.

Then, on Feb. 4, the entire first grade gathered in the school auditorium to show off the skills they’d learned. Students from Jennifer Burchfield’s class performed a skit focused on the Chinese zodiac, how the 12 animals were chosen, and why the rat is the animal representing the first year. Ella Chan bravely stood up in front of the group to sing for her classmates in Chinese. The children played their Chinese Rattle Drums and participated in a red ribbon dance.

Following the assembly, the children continued their immersion in Chinese culture by returning to their classrooms to partake of fortune cookies. They were sent home with placemats and chopsticks, courtesy of Ella’s family.

“The program was wonderful and I’m glad I came,” said Olga Wozniak. Wozniak’s grandson, Kyle, played the role of the Jade Emperor in the Chinese zodiac skit.

“They did a fabulous job,” said Vanessa Brogden, Kyle’s mom. “They always do a fantastic job.”

Etra has been the music teacher at CES since 1973. “I’ve had four kids go through the Colchester school system, and the music programs are always terrific,” said another mom. In the second grade, students prepare a Mexican fiesta to go along with their Mexican-based classroom curriculum. And coming up in March is National Music Month. “Here, we call it March Music Madness,” said Etra.

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