The Lunar New Year lends the perfect opportunity to teach about another culture.
The Chinese culture isn't something that students always get to learn about, let alone experience. I like to bring in elements of the culture through a sensory experience. Not only do my scholars enjoy the discovery process, it helps them learn appreciation for the beauty, stories and tools. One of the two sensory experiences I rotate for the Lunar New Year, is our "noodle" experience. Food and family is a huge part of the Lunar New Year celebration, so this "noodle" sensory table fits perfectly with the theme.
"Noodles", chopsticks and oriental bowls are some of the potential ingredients.
While cooked noodles would give a unique sensory experience, going through an incredible amount of them, allergy restrictions and dealing with the cold/flu season the wet germ absorbing noodles would be used, I chose mason line as an alternative. Mason line is slick like fresh cooked noodles, providing a similar experience, without the concerns or mess. Plus, it's washable and reusable. I cut long lengths of the mason line, then melted the ends with a tea-light to keep them from unbraiding. It's more work than some may want to put into the project, but the reusable and washable aspect makes it worth the time to me. Alternatives to the mason line could be yarn, string, or cooked noodles.
The main tools for the table are the children's chopsticks. They are from a set of the twelve Zodiac animals, purchased from Oriental Trading Company. The small bowls and soup spoons are from my families favorite go-to Asian market. This sensory table is only set out for one week, so alternate tools aren't needed. Additional items include: several metal Chinese fortune coins and parts of an Asian dinner set for larger dolls.
The Chinese Zodiac Chart visual is a wonderful reminder of the animals that represent each year.
Above our sensory table, on the magnetic whiteboard, I have a large Chinese Zodiac Chart. Adorning the chart's circle are pictures of the twelve Zodiac animals with their English and Mandarin names. The moveable arrow, with the Chinese symbol for luck, can be placed pointing at the correct Zodiac animal year after year. The Chinese Zodiac Chart is the perfect companion to reading a story about the animals and how they were chosen. The Chinese Zodiac Chart can be found HERE.
More children's books are becoming available.
Each year, I find more children's books relating to the Lunar New Year and the Chinese Zodiac. A new favorite, that goes along with this sensory table is 'I Can Eat with Chopsticks: The Tale of the Chopstick Brothers and How They Became A Pair' by Lin Xin. I love the bilingual aspect of this children's book. After I've read it to my scholars and its placed in the Reading Center, my scholars can see the story written in both English and Chinese.
Click on the image below to be taken to the Chinese Zodiac Chart:
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My Amazon Picks to complete the Lunar New Year Sensory Table: