Powhatan students learn all about China

Posted: February 9, 2013

The Winchester Star

Powhatan first-grader Olivia Wetzel, 6, peeks out from under the dragon she and her classmates made for the Chinese New Year celebration at the school on Friday. First-graders have been studying China for the last six weeks and ended the unit with a day of celebration, including visits to their classrooms from family and friends, a dragon parade, music and dance. Olivia's parents are Heather Gibson and Kevin Wetzel of Harpers Ferry, W.Va. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
Powhatan first-grader Ash King, 7, shows the Chinese garden he made in his class to his mother Kay King of Berryville.
Powhatan School first-grader Maddy Sluss, 7, shows her mother Amy Sluss a Chinese lantern she made. The first-graders topped off their study of China with lunch prepared by a local Chinese restaurant. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)


On Friday, a 56-legged, red-and-orange dragon snaked its way onto the wooden floor of the Powhatan School gym. The 30-foot-long creature had brown paper bags and tissue paper for skin and feet adorned with tiny sneakers.

The dragon was the creation of 28 first-graders at Powhatan and was part of a Chinese New Year parade and ribbon dance celebration. The event was the culmination of a six-week educational immersion into Chinese culture.

“I know a lot more,” said  6-year-old Olivia Wetzel, who can now list an array of foods found in China with ease. “I think I really want to go [to China].”

The holiday begins Sunday and continues until the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. This is the Year of the Snake.

First-grade teachers Stacy Sefton and Sara Studebaker taught the students about Chinese culture and history — ranging from the Grand Canal (the longest such waterway in the world) to the Terracotta Army (the collection of terracotta sculptures buried with the first emperor of the nation).

In turn, students created travel brochures, poetry and maps and decorated their classrooms with pandas, pagodas and kites.

“I learned that China is the same as us in some ways and not the same in other ways,” said Sydney Kelble, 7.

China was chosen for the annual celebration at Powhatan because of its various similarities to the United States, including its size, its wide variety of land and plants, and the fact that it is an industrial nation.

“For them, China is a neighbor,” Sefton said.

Beau Scheulen, 6, liked the study of Mount Everest best.

“Mount Everest is the most dangerous mountain in the world,” he said. “And chunks of ice can fall on you as big as a house.”

Ty Dickson, 7, enjoyed learning about the Forbidden City, the Chinese imperial palace.

For the past six weeks, his parents have helped him with his homework and nightly reading about the country.

“We had to learn, too,” said his mother Katy.

Before the students lined up for the parade, Eleanor Mollohan, 7, said her and her friend Sydney would be prepared for the event because they are ballerinas.

“We perform all the time,” she said, “so we’re not scared.”

— Contact Rebecca Layne atrlayne@winchesterstar.com