-  Rachel Maiden spent five weeks teaching in China

Rachel Maiden, Naas Elementary School academic learning disabilities teacher, spent five weeks in China during the summer of 2013. She was there teaching English, and although she said it was an amazing experience to make a difference there, she also has used that experience to make a difference a little closer to home.

Maiden’s class is learning about celebrations, and she is using the culture she got a taste of in China to help illustrate those concepts.

One of the projects her students are most proud of is the dragon they constructed to represent the dragon dances of the Chinese New Year. Educational assistants helped come up with the design to draw and paint the head, claws and tail. The students, paired with Dawna Spencer’s Behavioral Leaning Disabilities class, colored paper plates resembling scales, using colors representing the Chinese New Year — reds, oranges and yellows, and some other colors mixed in. by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Maidens class paired with another teacher to create multiple scales making up the dragon. Next year, Maiden hopes to include more of the school.

Maiden has found that through her projects, students have really responded to the learning and reading they’ve done about celebrations. “It’s really good for them to do the hands on,” she said.

Students also made Chinese lanterns incorporating the horse, representing the power and strength as this year is the year of the horse.

To accompany the dragon and lantern crafts, Maiden’s class learned the meaning of “gung hay fat choy,” the Pinyin equivalent of the symbols meaning “congratulations on your new year.” Students wrote messages wishing friends and family a happy new year, placed them in red envelopes and traced the chinese symbols on the outside.

Maiden used the example of new year’s resolutions to help students understand the Chinese tradition.

She also said they’ve responded well to all of the hands-on projects she’s given them and are excited to learn more.

Naas Principal Kimberly Brooks visited Maiden’s classroom while the students were reading a book about celebrations. In seeing the students struggle through it, she decided to put forth a challenge. She told the students if they picked two pages from the book, took it home and practiced a lot, they could come in and read it to her, and she would let them choose a rock or shell from the collection displayed in her office. by: POST PHOTO: KYLIE WRAY - Students also created Chinese lanterns depicting art representing the year of the horse.

Maiden later told Brooks she had better be ready because the students were already talking about what pages they were going to read for her.

Over the summer, Maiden stayed with friends who ran a hostel, helped teach English to their children and staff, and even ran a Saturday school for neighboring children.

“It was a life changer definitely,” Maiden said. “And it affected my perspective of teaching.”

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