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01-29-14: Ridgecrest educator teaches first graders about Chinese New Year
01-29-14: Ridgecrest educator teaches first graders about Chinese New Year
Posted on 01/29/2014

Every year just prior to the Chinese New Year, Ridgecrest Elementary paraeducator Agnes Ling Caras teaches the school’s first graders about the annual celebration by sharing artifacts, customs, and memories from her childhood in China.


The Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring Festival, is celebrated on the first day of the Chinese lunar calendar year. Celebrations continue for 15 days and end “when you see the full moon,” Caras said.


This year, the Chinese New Year begins on Friday, January 31.


Caras, who is a paraeducator (teaching assistant) in the Ridgecrest Elementary Support Center, explained to students that it is traditional to thoroughly clean house on the days immediately before the Chinese New Year celebration begins.


She shared a duster made from a yak tail, which was passed around the circle of students eager to touch its soft hair.


The holiday is focused on family and new beginnings, she said, and doorways are decorated with red paper cutouts featuring “couplets” (messages of good fortune and happiness). Caras shared two red paper cutouts with the phrase “Wishing you good luck” written in black Chinese characters.


Caras also shared memories of experiencing the Chinese New Year while a young girl in China and demonstrated ringing a dragon bell to “wake up” a colorful paper dragon she created for the classroom presentation.


Each Chinese New Year is associated with a different animal, she said, with 2014 designated the “Year of the Horse.” Caras lined up paper animals on a round table at the front of the classroom to explain the 12 animals represented in different years.


Caras also demonstrated how to use chopsticks, shared a rice bucket she brought to America from her homeland, displayed a lion table decoration, showed a gourd and bamboo wind instrument resembling a flute, and taught students the Chinese greeting “Ni hao.”


First-grade teacher Karen Smith thanked Caras for the presentation and told students how lucky they are to learn about the celebration from someone “who actually has experienced Chinese New Year all of her life.”


Smith planned to follow up the presentation by reading the class books from the school library about the Chinese New Year, showing educational videos of families in China preparing for the New Year, and having students make a paper dragon as part of an art lesson.