BOYCE — A day before the official beginning of Chinese New Year, first-graders at Powhatan School celebrated by wearing a large dragon costume and parading around the gymnasium.

The students have been preparing for the celebration and studying China and its history since they returned to school earlier this month. It has been a school tradition for years that the first-graders do a performance in honor of the Chinese New Year.

This year, the students had a new dragon that they held up with bamboo sticks.

Students also had the opportunity to learn about the 1974 discovery of the Terra Cotta soldiers found in northwest China near the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, who had proclaimed to be the first emperor of China in 221 B.C. The first-graders also made their own Terra Cotta warriors out of pots and clay, said first-grade teacher Tamara Myer.

“In general, I don’t think people understand that there are so many contributions and inventions that come from ancient China,” Myer said. “So it opens up a whole new world to these kids because they really only know their own house, their neighborhood, their community.”

In April, students will also study Mexico and hold a Cinco de Mayo celebration at the end of their lessons, Myer said.

First-grader Tucker Gerenski, 7, said his favorite part about Friday’s Chinese New Year celebration was “the big feast.” They also did a lot of crafts, he said, including making pandas out of paper plates.

“We learned that the Chinese made a lot of things, like sunglasses,” Tucker said on what he learned this month.

The unit on China is also incorporated into the students’ music and art classes, said Alyson Yoder, another first-grade teacher. That was evident during the Chinese New Year performance as students sang, played instruments and danced with ribbons to celebrate the holiday.

Parents Michelle and Mark Timberlake, of Boyce, were able to attend the Chinese New Year celebration on Friday.

“You can tell the kids feel a lot of pride and joy in what they’ve learned and then what they can teach us as parents,” said Michelle Timberlake.

In the world today, Mark Timberlake said it’s important for students to learn about different cultures, adding that he learns from his two children on a daily basis when they come home from school.

First-grader Olivia Kingsberry, 6, said it’s important to learn about different countries, like China, because if a person were to travel to say, Florida, but somehow end up in China by accident, they would know that.

“Because if we go to China, but we meant to go to Florida, we would not know what country we were in and we’ll be like ‘how do we get home,’” Olivia said.

— Contact Anna Merod at

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