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July 29, 2014

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Students get ready for Chinese New Year

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Richard Brian

Meadows kindergartners Nicholas Kouretas, 5, right, and Aiden White, 6, try on their ox costumes in preparation for the school’s annual Chinese New Year event.

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Meadows kindergarten teacher Linda Verbon demonstrates to her class how to make a dragon head out of construction paper in preparation for the school's annual Chinese New Year event.

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Meadows kindergarten teacher Linda Verbon, left, demonstrates how to make a dragon head out of construction paper to students, clockwise from bottom right, Nebi Samuel, 5, Daniel Johns, 5, Ainsley Wilson, 6, and Lindsey Hofflanders, 6, in preparation for the school's annual Chinese New Year event.

Freshly cleaned and pressed red and gold Asian-inspired miniature costumes hung neatly on racks between the kindergarten classrooms at the Meadows School as the young students squirted glue to the backs of paper yellow feathers that would be attached to large red dragon faces.

Meanwhile, the sound of a couple of students practicing songs in a language most of the 5 and 6 year olds had never previously spoken rang through the hall.

With only a couple of school days to go before the kindergarten and fifth grade students' annual Chinese New Year parade and performance in the Forum Shops at Caesars at 10:15 a.m. Jan. 26, the students spent much of the afternoon Tuesday making finishing touches on parade gear and brushing up on their Chinese children's songs.

Meadows students have been celebrating the Chinese New Year at the Forum Shops with parades and performances for about 13 years now, said kindergarten teacher Linda Verbon.

This year the students would be ushering in The Year of the Ox.

Maggie Chen, parent and a teacher at the Las Vegas Chinese School, had a son who participated in the original parade and has been working with the children each year ever since.

Chen is in charge of directing the students in dance moves and helping them learn how to pronounce the foreign words to popular Chinese children's songs "Where Are My Friends," "Butterfly," "Clay Doll" and "Congratulations," a song about the new year.

This year's group has spent the last couple of weeks working on memorizing the songs, she said.

"We learned it little by little," said 6-year-old Michelle Luh after following along on a practice run with Chen.

Chen said between the two grade levels there will be about 120 students singing in Chinese during the parade and performance.

Many of the fifth graders who will participate learned the songs when they were in kindergarten.

Fifth grader Kaitlyn Herndon, 11, said she remembered the basics of the songs from when she first performed them and also got a little help practicing from her sister, who is in second grade.

Kaitlyn is one of a group of fifth graders who will help maneuver a large dragon through the shop walkways during the parade.

Other students like Ian Ogilvie, 11, and Tommy Halkyard, 11, will help hold the dragon, as well as read to the crowd some facts about the Year of the Ox.

Those born in the Year of the Ox are smart, successful and slow to anger, Tommy said.

"But when they are angry, they're like raging bulls," added his classmate, 10-year-old Christian Otter.

The students said they have enjoyed learning about a culture different from their own.

"Any chance you get to learn about a different culture, you should take it," Ian said.

The students' teacher, Linda Bookout, said the activities fit in well with the class's history lessons on Europe and China.

For the kindergarteners, Verbon said the lessons revolving around Chinese culture don't end with the parade.

Once the dust settles from the performance at the Forum Shops, she said the students will make a book about the foods and customs associated with Chinese New Year.

Additionally she said Chinese lion dancers will visit the school to perform Jan. 29.

Kindergarten teacher Kim Cagle said the students always find the activities interesting.

"I think they gain an appreciation that not everyone is the same as they are," she said.

Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].

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