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The Lunar New Year: Honoring Chinese Culture

January 25, 2022 | Heather Palmer Welesko

The second and third grade are very excited and honored to learn about the Lunar New Year. We are specifically focusing on learning more about Chinese culture, and have chosen to focus and culminate our studies with a Lunar New Year celebration.

Before beginning our unit on the Lunar New Year, the second and three grade teachers gathered to discern how we might teach in a way that best honors and celebrates Chinese culture. We thought seriously about the Lunar New Year parade, and debated whether having a parade was honoring or appropriating a culture. Many teachers weighed in, and in the end, we learned that our goal as teachers was to truly honor, celebrate, and learn more about Chinese culture. We even discussed teaching children–in a developmentally appropriate way–the difference between honoring and appropriating a culture.

Ms. Mauldin broached the topic of honoring another culture beautifully in music, where children are learning a traditional Chinese celebration song. She said that learning about another culture is like receiving a treasure. It is our job or be careful and honorable with what we learn. She also taught them that just because you’ve seen something done once does not mean that you are a master of it. This teaching was in the context of seeing the dancing lions in the San Fransisco Lunar New Year Parade. Some students thought it looked easy, and they could do it right away. Other students thought they could play the song easily, because they’ve heard it once. She said that this sort of thinking is a little like a first grade student seeing a second grader do something, and saying, “If I can do that, I’m a second grader too, and I’m as good as a second grader.” She taught that skills take time and work to learn, and the most honoring thing to do is to be patient and put in the work.

With the goal in mind, the teachers started to have conversations and lessons about different elements of Chinese culture around Lunar New Year, such as what is traditionally eaten, gifts given, and blessings bestowed. We learned about the various zodiac symbols, and are making lion heads to use in our own parade.

Here, some students share what traits are ascribed to different animals of the zodiac. This was great fun for many students!



We also learned that different gifts and plants bring different blessings. Students spent time choosing which gifts they would give.

You can see more gift drawings below:

Today, we choose a blessing to make into a beautiful poster. Students learned how difficult it was to draw Chinese letters, and spent a good deal of time making their drafts beautiful. We will turn these drafts into posters to hang up in the classroom.

Soon we will be ready to share our learning at our culmination event: a Chinese Lunar New Year Parade, with dancing lions and a traditional Chinese celebration song–complete with second and third grade instrumentalists.

One of the most beautiful things we can learn is how to honor others by cherishing new cultures in a spirit of humility and awe.

Heather Palmer Welesko

Literacy and Assistant Teacher, Grades 4 & 5

Heather Welesko has taught at Mustard Seed School for nearly a decade as a literacy and assistant teacher. She has taught literature and writing at Kean University and Harold Washington College of Chicago. Heather holds an MFA in writing and poetry from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MA in Leadership and Spiritual Formation from Evangelical Seminary.

Ms. Welesko is enthusiastic about professional development, and has advanced training in the Handwriting Without Tears program; the Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading Program, and the Responsive Classroom/ Development Designs Program through Origin. She continues professional develop through The Columbia University Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She’s passionate about literature, creativity, comprehensive education, and believes strongly in teaching identity and diversity awareness and inclusion.

Ms. Welesko is a poet, artist, and yogi, and is still, always learning.

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