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Discover China Day gets thumbs up from UCPS students

Ryan Pallone, a 13-year-old Marvin Ridge Middle student, is taught the traditional way of serving and drinking tea by Lin Zhu. (Below) Landi Radiner, a 12-year-old Parkwood Middle School seventh grader, cuts paper into various shapes. Chinese dancer, Xizhou Zeng, performs and teaches a traditional Chinese folk dance.

When offered hot tea in China, there is a right way and a wrong way to serve and drink the tea.

About 180 Union County Public Schools middle and high school students had the opportunity to learn the proper etiquette of this long-standing Chinese tradition, as well as other things about China’s culture and its people during Discover China Day.

This annual event, which featured presenters from the Confucius Institute at Pfeiffer University, is an effort to increase awareness of China through exposure to its culture, language, history and people.

Confucius Institute at Pfeiffer University professor Weihong Yan, the institute’s director, said this year’s event, held at Marvin Ridge High School, marks the sixth year it has been presented to UCPS students.

“Our mission at the institute is to promote Chinese language and culture,” Yan said. 

“We are here to open their minds. It's a very good program and students can learn a lot about China," Yan said. "We try to make this fun for students. I can see the expressions on their faces. They are fascinated by the culture and seem to be having fun learning.”

During the daylong event, students rotated through four sessions: folkdance, ink drawing, the tea ceremony and paper cutting and folding.

Students from six schools participated in the event: Marvin Ridge High School, Weddington High School, Cuthbertson High School, Cuthbertson Middle School, Parkwood Middle School, and Marvin Ridge Middle School.

Each school was invited to send up to 30 students.

Donna Podgorny, the UCPS World Languages Instructional Content Facilitator, who helps organize the event, said the day offers a unique opportunity for students to experience a culture very different from their own.

“The kids get that sense of, ‘This is someone who lives in China and I don’t have a lot of experience interacting with these people in my world.’ They’ve been very respectful. They’ve listened very carefully. They’ve been very kind.”

Students were shown a tea ceremony, different types of tea and were able to sample Chinese tea.

Nate Crouse and Ryan Pallone, both 13-year-olds from Marvin Ridge Middle, seemed to enjoy the tea ceremony, learning the traditional way of serving and drinking it.

“The tea has a flavor you can’t describe,” Crouse said. “It’s really good.”

Gabe Spera, a seventh grader at Marvin Ridge Middle School, said he enjoyed the entire day. “The tea was hot but it tasted pretty good. The paper cutting was pretty cool. The day’s been pretty fun. I liked it.”

Students learned how to fold several shapes with paper and then cut the paper into various images, both of which are ancient and modern traditions in China.

Landi Radiner, a 12-year-old Parkwood Middle School seventh grader, said she really enjoyed the paper cutting session. “I fold and then cut these and make various shapes,” she said, holding up the panda and Chinese letter she had already made.

In another session, students learned about Chinese ink painting, which is valued for the creations that result from just black ink, paper and a brush.

Students learned basic painting strokes and were then able to take home their own paintings.

Students also had a session with Chinese dancer, Xizhou Zeng, who spoke about traditional Chinese folk dance. She performed the peacock dance and then taught students how to do the dance.

“I am going to teach students some basic movements and basic hand gestures from the peacock dance,” she said. 

This annual event is organized by the Confucius Classroom Consortium of Union County Public Schools through support from the Asia Society, Hanban and the Confucius Institute of Pfeiffer University.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe, UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: Mar 12, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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