This week, Ross School students marked the beginning of Chinese New Year, a widely celebrated holiday in countries with significant Chinese populations. Special events on both the Lower and Upper School campuses invited all to welcome the start of the Year of the Rooster.
On Monday, January 30, 42 boarding students from the Upper School, all of whom are participants in Ross School’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program, visited the Lower School campus in Bridgehampton to teach the young students about aspects of their culture. Among the activities the Upper School students shared were paper-cutting, a Chinese folk art dating back to the second century; zhezhi, or paper folding; Cat’s Cradle, a game involving a single string figure; and how to write the young students’ names in Chinese characters.
According to Lower School Mandarin teacher Xi Chen, though Lower School students begin their study of Mandarin as early as kindergarten, the exchange presented an unparalleled opportunity for them to receive one-on-one instruction from native speakers. “These students have learned their names in Mandarin, but the level of personal instruction they’ve gotten today is [really inspiring],” Xi said. “For many of them, they’ve interacted with more native Mandarin speakers today than in their lifetimes.”
Although the majority of the students visiting the Lower School were Chinese, students from countries like Brazil, India, Korea, and Russia also shared their countries’ New Year’s celebrations. Tenth grader Padma Devella shared details about the Indian holiday Ugadi, while others talked about the festival of Carnival and the figures associated with Russia’s holiday celebrations.
During a community assembly, Lower School students from every grade level commemorated the Lunar New Year with performances that ranged from a puppet show detailing the mythical start of the Chinese zodiac to a kung fu demonstration and intricate lion and dragon dances. Upper School students Amanda Ding, Alice Wang, Jessica Liu, and Bella Yang closed the assembly by performing two songs—one in Mandarin and the other an English-language pop song.
Mami Takeda, Ross School’s ESOL coordinator, explained that although this is the school’s first attempt at an exchange of this type, the hope is that it will become an ongoing tradition. “Today is a freezing day,” student Jayden Jing said during the assembly. “But we feel the warmth of everyone at the Lower School today. Thank you for celebrating the New Year with us.”
The Upper School campus celebrated Chinese New Year on Tuesday, January 31. Students in Levi Stribling and Lydia Qiu’s levels two and three Mandarin courses began their day by making pork and vegetarian dumplings to share during Ross Café’s themed lunch. The activity also served as a cultural introduction to dining practices in China, with students learning the proper way to serve a communal Chinese meal and the correct technique for using chopsticks.
At a later assembly, students learned about the history and significance of Chinese New Year, and were treated to performances by their classmates. Selena Hu played the song “Gold Snake Dance” on the guzheng, a plucked string instrument, and Qisen Hong sang the song “Miss Dong” by Song Dongye.