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Mandarin Chinese Students and Teachers Celebrate Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year More than 65 Mandarin Chinese students from 10 different school districts gathered virtually with teachers Emily Balain, Weishu Chang, Hui Chen, Dana Gaska, Shih-han Wang and Linda Yu for a celebration of the 2021 Lunar New Year -- the year of the Ox.

Students connected via Zoom and live stream as part of the Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES Interactive Video Course (IVC) program and Chinese Language and Culture Initiative. IVC classes are provided in a distance learning-based model that allows students to either receive instruction at their schools or from their homes on a daily basis.

Understanding the significance of the Lunar New Year is an important component to understanding Chinese culture, which is an embedded purpose of any effective language program. The hour-long celebration included stories about the origin of the Lunar New Year and other Chinese traditions, interactive games and an award ceremony for students who participated in a regional Chinese singing competition. Students who attended the celebration via live stream were also able to interact with one another during the meeting through the use of activities and games hosted on the interactive instruction platform Nearpod. The highly organized, engaging and fun program was planned by the Chinese teachers at BOCES, under the direction of computer education coordinator Xiuyan Huo.

After the event, students were asked to complete a short survey to provide feedback, which was overwhelmingly positive. Students stated that they had looked forward to the event all day, loved the energy of it and were happy that they were able to participate. Many students also said that they hope similar activities can be planned in the future.

In previous school years, the OHM BOCES Chinese program asked teachers to provide lessons and coordinate Lunar New Year celebrations with their students only during their scheduled class periods. This year, the celebration shifted to a more regional approach. “We really want to provide opportunities for students from different schools and grade levels to get to know each other so that the experience students have in our IVC program is enhanced to its fullest potential,” said Huo. “We also want to expose students to the benefits of longer-term language study so that they can see the bigger picture of our seven-year sequential Mandarin Chinese program.”

Despite the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, distance learning coordinator Greg Smith is proud of the growth and development of the IVC program and Mandarin Chinese courses during this time, and the celebration of the Lunar New Year serves as a perfect example of that. “The shift to hybrid and remote instruction by our participating school districts has forced us to grow and adapt in ways that we never would have thought possible before last year,” said Smith. “I’m proud that our IVC program can serve as a great example to other educators in our region as we all strive to provide the most cost-effective and innovative services to meet the diverse needs of our students.”