Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chinese New Year: the Year of the Rabbit - 新年快乐

Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’Ai!
2/3/11 - 1/22/12

Happy Chinese New Year to all my friends! This is the first year we have partaken in a celebration of this festive holiday and boy have we been missing out...Some of the fun activities we did in preparation of today have been to read the colorful fairytale by author Grace Lin entitled, "Where the Mountain Meets the Moon".

This book was suggested to me by my friend Carrie of The Parenting Passageway when I was planning our Grade 2 year. She sang its praises and tossed the idea around of doing a whole block on it. One of the elements of our school is to read a special novel each month, carefully chosen to reflect the season, holiday or celebration. I decided to place this book in our January block so we would have a whole month to savor it before celebrating our first Chinese New Year. Well, lo and behold, the book was so fabulous and such a quick read that we ended up devouring it instead and changed gears and ended up doing a whole block on it as a vehicle, instead of more fables! Carrie has more wonderful book suggestions on her blog. For Grade 2, a link to some gems she recommends can be found here.

In continuation of our Chinese appreciation studies, since we flew through Grace Lin's wonderful book, we followed up with a familiar tale that now ties into our math block in February. It's by Helena Clare Pittman and is entitled, "A Grain of Rice". It explores the power of multiplication and is a wonderful read aloud for living math studies.

As an aside, if you are focusing on India, the talented author Demi has also penned a similar story set in India that we have also read called, "One Grain of Rice: A Mathematical Folktale". The illustrations in this book (as in all of Demi's books) are simply to die for!

Demi also has a book on celebrating Chinese New Year called, "Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!"

In preparation for today, the girls and I found some crafts that we altered a bit to fit our needs. We had a lot of fun creating Chinese firecracker decorations out of construction paper, glue, glitter, and yarn.

1. First fold red construction paper into fourths and cut.

This print out came with the craft so we used these letters to model our letters.

2. With glue, draw your letter(s) or design.

3. Take gold glitter and sprinkle it on the glue, lifting and sifting the paper to ensure the glue is entirely covered with glitter.

4. After it dries, you can wrap one end to the other so it forms a tube and glue it together. Let dry.

5. Cut strips of gold yarn and tape or glue to the inside of the firecracker and hang around the house!

Another fun craft is making lanterns. The tutorial, along with other fun tutorials (including felt fortune cookies, dragons, felt dumplings, etc) can be found for these here.

We bought some fun chopsticks and made a steamed rice meal.

The girls woke to find these little rice candies on their plates to enjoy this afternoon. And we will be attempting to make our own fortune cookies using the recipe found here.

We are also members of the Gene Autry Museum in Griffith Park and they have a permanent exhibit on the Chinese immigrants who came to build the railroads out west. The exhibit includes an interactive kitchen, a Chinese restaurant, and other hands on exploration for children. Traditional Chinese clothing can be put on the children as they play and learn about this beautiful culture.

The Year of the Rabbit is one to focus mainly on the home, on family, and on the relationships with women and our children. I like that focus and it will serve as wonderful reminder of what is really important in our lives - our children and being good to each other. The rabbit is a lucky sign and a symbol of the moon. As we embark on this new year, let us be grateful for all of our blessings. I know I am so grateful for all of my online friends. I have been so inspired by so many great blogs and teachers out there and extend a big giant cyber hug to you all!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Happy St. Brigid's and Happy Candlemas!

St. Brigid and the King's Wolf...

There are some wonderful legends of St. Brigid and some amazing traditions tied into this Patron Saint of Ireland, including St. Brigid's cross.
If you look online, you will see a wealth of interesting sites and links to this beloved Patron Saint of Ireland. I found this one quite extensive.

I also loved this post which ties St. Brigid into the hearth and Candlemas. The prayer for the hearth is very moving.

We have been telling two different stories of St. Brigid this past week. One of them is the same story told slightly differently in two different books. It is found in "Stories of the Saints" and a more beautifully written version is found in this gem of a book, recommended to me by Jenn over at Our Little Nature Nest. It is called "The Key of the Kingdom" and it is full of lovely stories and poems specifically to speak in rhyme and rhythm to children in the early grades.

The second story, which the girls much preferred is the story of St. Brigid saving the life of a careless man with the help of a wild white wolf. It can be found free online through The Baldwin Project and can be seen here. We used this story to tell the tale with some wooden figures standing in for the characters in the story.

The careless man who shot the King's pet wolf in prison.

St. Brigid bringing the wild white wolf to the King in exchange for the careless man's life...

St. Brigid and the prisoner riding off to safety...

If you are in the mood to make some lovely St. Brigid's Day breads or soups, you can check out this post at Catholic Cuisine here. Or Shower of Roses found here.

My last year's Candlemas post can be found here.

And a tutorial on making beeswax candles from my blog can be found here.

Hope you enjoy this lovely season and preparations for The Year of the Rabbit! There is so much that goes on these three days that I wanted to make sure to get this out before too much time elapsed. I will be back soon with our post on our first Chinese New Year celebration!