Lions, dragons and a new year ... oh my!

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The world suddenly got a lot bigger for Cole Sittig and his fellow third-graders at Soda Creek Elementary School.

For the past three weeks, the school's third-grade students have studied Chinese culture with art teacher Susanmarie Oddo. The unit culminated Tuesday with a Chinese New Year's parade through the school.

Dressed in red and waving paper dragons and lions, the school's 66 third-graders paraded to loud music as students, teachers and parents watched. The Chinese New Year begins today, and the traditional celebrations last 15 days, ending with the Festival of Lanterns. This is the Year of the Rooster.

The brief parade incorporated many of the Chinese customs students learned about during the past month. Wearing red clothing is a New Year's tradition because the color symbolizes joy, good luck and prosperity, Oddo said. The dragons and lions are creatures the Chinese believe scare off evil spirits. Loud music and firecrackers are used in New Year's festivities for the same reason.

Oddo, who has an interest in multicultural arts, did a similar unit last year, and it was so popular that students couldn't wait to do it again, she said.

"They were so excited," Oddo said. "They really enjoyed learning about the culture, and they really enjoyed sharing what they learned with their families and friends."

After the parade, teacher Sue Barnes' students reflected on the unit and what they learned about the Chinese and their culture.

"They believed that if they didn't scare away the evil spirits, they might destroy their town," third-grader Ty Coghlan said.

Sittig offered a broader perspective on what the unit taught him.

"There's a lot of things you can learn about in the world," Sittig said.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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