Stuff to Share
It helps to have a lot of "stuff" when I pick a theme. Having lots of theme related items spread out all over the quilt makes both kids and adults curious. And I do have a lot of Chinese stuff... mostly gifts from people who have visited. I recently picked up a wonderful 1980 National Geographic at Half Price books for 50 cents. And once a week the "China Daily" appears on my sidewalk, although I've never subscribed. But the gong is my favorite of all the stuff.
There's something about the gong that makes kids and adults pay attention. Everyone wants a turn to see what it feels like to strike that big disc of metal and make it shiver for nearly a minute. At the community center, we took turns gonging in the Chinese New Year. I've read up on every possible way the Chinese bring luck to the New Year...I'm not sure if that's even one of them.
Year of the Dragon
But the year of the Dragon is definitely a good thing. The Chinese still are thrilled to have their child born in the year of the dragon. Those born under that sign are said to be powerful and successful. In my class at the community center we each decorated pieces that we fit together to create a sort of puzzle dragon. They told me last week they wanted more "hands on", so that was our cooperative project.
Another popular prop is chop sticks. With another group we tried various techniques trying to pick up Rice Chex cereal. I learned a year ago that Styrofoam pieces are great for giving folks a feeling of accomplishment. If all else fails, you can at least stab a Styrofoam piece. But my biggest lesson was that most people (and especially those with memory issues) really like the reward of eating the item they have managed to grasp with their wooden sticks. Eating Styrofoam is never a good thing...
Why are they so fun?
The folks in both groups this week, got a kick out of trying on the Chinese straw hat. We talked about the usefulness of such a design...and I put it to very good use when I dashed to my car in a downpour after class!
A few days later, I lugged my stuff to the Fort Bend Women's Shelter and each child took a turn racing across the room balancing the wobbly hat on his/her head while the other kids chanted a song.
The kids also loved the wearing the "Emperor's Hat" with the long braid hanging from the back. They were surprised to know the very last Emperor was a little boy, just about their age.
No Time for Dragons
I had so much STUFF that we ran out of time. No time to work the Dragon Shadow Puppet. No time to look at the books about children celebrating the Spring Festival. No time to look at the Chinese Yuan ($$) tucked inside the little red envelope that children get on New Year's. I had just begun teaching them h0w to use chopsticks when dinner arrived. And oh how I wish I had been allowed to photograph their expressions as they experienced success! (sometimes with their own technique!) When I left, they were happily eating dinner with their new wooden utensils!
And what I learned?
I always pack a lot of stuff...plan a lot of activities. Any teacher should have more prepared than she'll use... but I can still leave disappointed when we haven't done it all. But sometimes I need to remind myself of all the tiny things that happen, that I never planned. I didn't plan on the kids eating dinner with chopsticks!
I would happily trade that! I need to enjoy the unexpected surprises. Those are really the best!
For 20+ years children have called it the Magic Quilt. They've danced and pretended all over these colorful squares. I've dragged it to schools, shelters and studios where children have climbed on top to hear Magic Quilt Stories and to act them out.