Taupō kids get a taste of Chinese language and culture

Year 6 teacher Ling Clarke describes the host of activities Taupō’s Saint Patrick’s Catholic School students tried their hands at to mark this year’s New Zealand Chinese Language Week. The Foundation provided the school with Experience Asia finding to help cover the costs of the activities, which included dumpling making, calligraphy, ink painting and more.
A montage of photos showing some of the activities the students did including calligraphy and lantern making

Students tried their hands at ink painting, calligraphy, lantern making and more

A large dragon-tail flag and red lanterns hanging in the cherry blossom trees greeted our students when they arrived at school on the Monday morning at the start of Chinese Language Week.

An action-packed week lay ahead with teachers, parents and community members coming together to give students a taste of Chinese culture and language, including dumpling making, tea ceremony and calligraphy.

Under red lanterns in the staff room, students got to take part in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, each class tasting five different types of Chinese teas and learning about the ceremony and the history of tea in China.

Following the tasting, the students sat down to discuss flavours, aromas and the look of each of the tea leaves. Lastly, they voted for their favourite, with ginseng proving a hit.

After the tea tasting, a Year 2 parent emailed their class teacher and said her son “had the best day ever at school.” This was an amazing result from a child who has a history of reluctance to come to school.

Chinese language week provided a chance for parents and members of the community to get involved.

My own father, Jacques Li, who retired a few years ago but ran a Chinese takeaway in Taupo for 30 years, prepared and cooked pork dumplings for our school to enjoy. He also gave the children a short lesson on bamboo steaming and how to use a steamboat for cooking. Children were encouraged to use chopsticks to eat their dumplings and all 600 were devoured.

Ling's father Jacques Li showing kids how a steamboat steamer works

Ling's father Jacques Li showing kids how a steamboat steamer works

Our in-house music teacher, Kaylene Carson, organised a half hour taiko drum session, which although Japanese, the origins of the drums traced back to China. Kaylene’s classes included some history of Chinese musical instruments, watching an example of Taiko drumming and practising some basic drumming techniques and grooves.

Many families chose to continue the Chinese theme learning at home including visiting the local Chinese store, making Chinese food at home, baking fortune cookies, looking up Chinese zodiacs and learning Chinese phrases and sayings. Our parents also enjoyed the sharing of Chinese Language Week through the online learning platform Seesaw.

We had great feedback from parents: “My daughter has come home every day this week with a new exciting thing to tell me about Chinese culture. I was surprised when she said that her new favourite food was dumplings, so we are going to try make them this weekend,” one parent emailed me.   

Some of the students proved to be very proficient at Chinese ink painting

One of our school focusses for this year has been to be more culturally diverse and responsive and the funding that we have received has enabled us to achieve this goal within our diverse cultural community found at St Patrick’s.

Getting an understanding of an Asian culture/language is important because we live in such a diverse society. Instead of being ignorant to differences, we should embrace, learn and celebrate as much as we can in order for us to be well rounded citizens of such an ever-changing world. 

Saint Patrick's School, Taupō, held their Chinese Language Week activities with help from an Asia New Zealand Foundation Experience Asia grant.