I have become very timid about observing holidays in my classroom because each one brings with it the possibility of offending some of my families. I would love to be able to observe the cultural traditions of holidays and leave the religious components to families and their religious institutions, but that is also offensive to some. I know I can't make everybody happy, but I still wish to try.
For years my wise and wonderful husband has suggested that I stay away from religious holidays and any holiday that was created to sell greeting cards. Celebrate real things, he says, like Spring, an eclipse, the solar system, leap year, rock music, a new classroom pet, gravity... he's got a great list. That's why I picked him - he's a super genius.
This year I listened. I've already announced that the Birch Room is ignoring Valentine's Day. But Chinese New Year seems like a good fit for us. Sure, there are religious aspects such as the burning of the kitchen god. And Hallmark does sell cards for Chinese New Year. But in large part, it's an observance of Spring and the moon and family. Those are real things we study in our Montessori class and therefore, Chinese New Year is a holiday for us!
We did not have an actual celebration, more of an observance through reading, discussion, and a few great art activities I saw on Pinterest. (My lack of artsy craftiness is a moot point now that I have discovered Pinterest. I am forever grateful to everyone who shares their brilliance there.) Our first project was this dragon I saw at No Time for Flashcards.
We changed it up a little bit because we didn't have the capability to give everyone a hand in the bubble-wrap painting. We left the white butcher paper unpainted. But the children in both classes were able to cut and tear their choice of paper and glue it on whenever they got the notion during class.
After they glued for two days, I cut out the dragon shape and displayed it in our hallway for display.
I also saw this beautiful idea for making cherry blossom or pear blossom branches at Fairy Dust Teaching
Ours turned out to be a sweet little arrangment. Just some tissue paper glued onto a few branches. I only have this video capture image for now.
What I loved about this project was that the night before we had a big storm and I was not willing to go out looking for branches on a dark, stormy night. The next morning on the playground a friend found a fallen branch and brought it to show me. I asked if we could use it for an art project and he graciously said yes. Talk about following the child...