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Sandy Hook School Students Learn About Chinese Culture



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Sandy Hook School Students Learn About Chinese Culture

By Eliza Hallabeck

After learning about mythological Chinese animals, such as the Dragon Turtle, Sandy Hook elementary school students participating in the once-a-week before-school program on Chinese culture and history were asked by program instructor Wan Huffman to imagine their own animal with “super powers.”

“I thought you could create your own animals,” said Ms Huffman, while handing out Crayola Model Magic modeling material with the help of program assistant Julie Auerbach. Both Ms Huffman and Ms Auerbach volunteered to help with the program, which is for students kindergarten through fourth grade.

Ms Huffman said she first became aware of the possibility to volunteer when she contacted Newtown High School Assistant Principal Jason Hiruo, the program coordinator for Newtown’s China Initiative. Ms Huffman had been interested in helping at the high school level, when foreign exchange teacher Ding Hong was away. Instead, with that position already taken care of, Mr Hiruo said Ms Huffman, a Sandy Hook School parent, would be perfect for the volunteer position at her son’s school, according to Ms Huffman.

“I’m surprised at how much they like it,” said Ms Huffman. “I was never a public speaker.”

At first teaching the room full of students was harder than she had anticipated, but now, roughly half-way through the six-course program, Ms Huffman has lesson plans and interactive projects for the students to complete each class.

Since starting the program, Ms Huffman, who grew up in China, has also discovered more about Chinese history than she was taught in school.

The program is held in the school’s library, and on Friday, February 4, each student worked on their own animal.

Ali Fernand, a third grade student, said her “Natural Compass” animal would help anyone find their path by following the symbol that appears in its mouth.

Fellow third grade student Ethan Lee worked on creating a cross between a dragon and a human, and first grade student Bear Nikitchyuk created a “dragon that bites.”

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