First Graders Parade in the Year of the Dragon

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

This sentiment was sung in the Beasley hallway and cafeteria by our first graders who paraded through Lower School on Friday, February 9, in the annual Dragon Parade. Decked out in red, the classes were celebrating Lunar New Year. The year 2024 is the “Year of the Dragon,” so it was especially fitting to celebrate with the annual First Grade Dragon Parade!

As they marched through the dining hall, students rhythmically played a gong, carried their own version of the sun on an elevated pole, and held up Chinese characters. As for the dragon, one lucky student wore the dragon head while fellow first-grade students flanked each side of a long piece of red paper that acted as the dragon’s body and tail. The students also rang bells to literally ring in the new year.

First graders prepared for the parade by decorating the dragon body with dragon characteristics, Chinese characters, and symbols associated with the Lunar New Year such as lanterns and the dragon. This celebration ties into a major learning theme in first grade as students study the culture of China as part of their year-long theme of community. Through virtual field trips, books, discussions, and hands-on activities, they learn about the language, foods, ways of life, landmarks, and celebrations of Chinese culture.

Also, prior to the parade, MICDS first graders wrote their names in Chinese characters, practiced using chopsticks, made lanterns and dragon masks, and even learned how to 3D-print their Chinese zodiac animals and turn them into medallions with Robyn Williams, Lower School Coordinator of Instructional Technology. “Ms. Williams also brought her love and knowledge of China to give us a virtual tour of the Great Wall of China,” detailed Jenn Gillis, First Grade Homeroom Teacher. “The first graders were even invited to sing their Happy New Year song in our Lower School assembly, thanks to the direction of Dr. Katy Nichols, Lower School Music Teacher. Finally, we had a visit from the Upper School Mandarin class and Lily Childs, Upper School Mandarin Teacher, who shared and added to the first graders’ growing knowledge about the Lunar New Year. ”

In the unit, the first-grade classes discussed what they already knew about the Lunar New Year and then developed questions on what they wondered about the celebration. They read books, watched educational learning videos, and had class discussions on the different traditions celebrated during the Lunar New Year. At the end of the unit, they talked about what they learned about China.

“The parade was a wonderful culminating event for the first-grade students!” said Gillis. “It is a meaningful tradition that first-grade students look forward to celebrating and that they remember watching when they were ‘little.’ The China unit is an incredible collaboration of so many different skills, interests, and people in our community. It really is an example of how much students learn and enjoy that learning when their classes are aligned!”

This year, even Curious George, suited up in red, made an appearance with Head of School Jay Rainey. “I was so pleased that Mary Chou, mother of Jackson ’23, loaned her family’s Curious George doll in his festive Lunar New Year outfit for me to show to our Lower School students,” said Mr. Rainey. “George received a lot of ‘Happy New Year’ high fives in the Beasley lunchroom and hallway during and after the parade before I returned him to Ms. Chou.”

Happy Year of the Dragon from our first graders to you!