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Lunar New Year at UCDS!


by Matt Swanson, Music Specialist

Other than the snow and ice that covered the playground on Thursday February 7th, it seemed liked an ordinary morning at UCDS. That was, until loud drums and cymbals awakened a sleeping lion on the Interconnection stage! The lion looked around, scratched its ears, reared up on its hind legs, and proceeded to walk right out into an audience of unsuspecting UCDS students! Weaving deftly among the rows of wide-eyed onlookers, it paused intermittently to open its jaws wide and roar in time with the beating drums (some children were even swallowed whole in this jaw-opening spectacle). Finally, as the lion emerged from the crowd, it once again stood on its hind legs, and the crowd erupted in cheers!

This was not a traumatic tale of a zoo presentation gone-wrong; rather this was a joyous celebration of the Lunar New Year! The performers came from the Mak Fai Washington Kung Fu Club Lion Dance Team. Two dancers wore the elaborate lion costume, and several musicians played the large wooden drums and assorted cymbals. The performers explained that the tradition of the lion dance originated from a mythological tale of a village under attack by a monster called Nian. As the story goes, the villagers created a lion costume and successfully scared away the Nian, and ever since the practice of lion dancing has been associated with good fortune.

This exciting lion dance performance was part of a larger school-wide exploration of the Lunar New Year. In their classrooms, Early Elementary students built their number-sense skills by estimating the number of chocolate gold coins (associated with good fortune). They also reflected in their journals about the Lunar New Year celebration and their families’ own holiday celebrations. First and second graders engaged in puppet-making activities and conducted research about different Lunar New Year traditions. Third and fourth graders explored the tale of the Nian monster and the different ways that people celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday. Specialist classes also participated across levels, from singing the song Gong Xi Gong Xi (恭喜恭喜) in music, to engaging with non-fiction and fiction books in Library. These activities–along with the performance that so captivated the community on February 7th–provide an example of how students’ cultural traditions are brought to life in the UCDS curriculum.