“How do we move away from a single view of Chinese Lunar New Year and New Year traditions?” This is the essential question teachers Runze Yang and Shanshan Xu wanted to have students explore in their Middle School and Upper School Chinese classes.
The teachers partnered with the Hiatt Center and through Beaver’s relationship with the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC), students had the opportunity to interview senior members in the Chinese community. COVID restrictions prevented an in-person meeting, however, Natalie Ng—the Senior Activity Center Coordinator at BCNC—was able to gather elders from across the metro Boston area to a virtual community space. Beaver students prepared questions to ask in Chinese, and afterward, they were thrilled to share what they learned.
“They were all very excited to meet the seniors and really enjoyed some spontaneous conversations in Chinese. They were also very excited to see emotions and hear about how Lunar New Year is celebrated by people who live in our local community.” — Shanshan Xu, Upper School Chinese teacher
In addition, the conversations helped students better understand the diversity of the Chinese diaspora community and how the Chinese Lunar New Year is celebrated in different ways. Students also got to practice spontaneous communication with people with diverse accents.
“Doing Zoom interviews within the same time zone and with people who live in our city gave students the opportunity to build relationships and explore the proximity of their target language and cultural relevance,” Xu said. “It is such an authentic way to engage students with what they are learning.”
To follow up with their Zoom interviews, students will practice writing greeting cards using what they have learned about traditions in class, including auspicious sayings. They will also reflect on the following:
- List two new ideas you learned about the Lunar New Year based on the interview?
- What did you learn about the background of the individual(s) you interviewed?
- What struck you the most about interacting with a senior during your conversation?
“What struck me as I was popping into breakout Zoom rooms was seeing how excited both students and elders were to meet one another. Though students were nervous to ask questions in their beginning Mandarin skills, there were clear connections as students worked to understand responses seniors shared about themselves. These short conversations led to powerful insights.” — Geeta Jain, Upper School Global History Teacher/Hiatt Center Faculty Liaison