TROY’s Confucius Institute takes Chinese New Year celebration to schools

Students and staff from the Confucius Institute at Troy University perform the Dragon Dance for Pike Road Elementary School students.

Students and staff from the Confucius Institute at Troy University perform the Dragon Dance for Pike Road Elementary School students.

Montgomery area school children got the opportunity to welcome in the Year of the Dog on Thursday as a touring group from Troy University’s Confucius Institute brought its Chinese New Year celebration to area Confucius Classrooms.

The bus tour, featuring a Troy University bus adorned with photos from the University’s collection of terracotta warriors, began at Forest Avenue Elementary School Thursday morning and also visited Baldwin Arts and Academic Magnet, Pike Road Elementary and LAMP.

Each stop along the way, TROY’s Confucius Institute introduced students to the traditional Chinese dragon and lion dances, which were met with applause and cheers from students. Students from Confucius Classrooms at each school also performed during the events, some singing Chinese songs, while others recited traditional Chinese poetry.

“We are here today visiting our Confucius Classrooms to celebrate the Chinese New Year,” said Dr. Iris Xu, director of the Confucius Institute at TROY. “The Chinese New Year is like a family reunion for the people of China. No matter how busy they are, it is important that they return home and celebrate the Chinese New Year with their families.”

Dr. Xu said the Confucius Classrooms program is important for Alabama students because it provides them with a better understanding of China and the world around them. Begun in 2007, TROY’s Confucius Institute is the only such institute with a statewide mission in Alabama, designed to provide language and cultural education and assist in economic development efforts.

“There are now over 7,000 students are learning the Chinese language throughout the state from Birmingham to Mobile,” Dr. Xu said. “Chinese culture is very important, not only for us but also for the students from Alabama, because we should understand cultures from other countries. When we understand the language and the culture, we can better understand how to work with them and do business with them.”

Jannette Wright, principal at Baldwin Arts and Academic Magnet, agreed that understanding others is an important lesson for today’s students.

“The Confucius Institute at Troy University has helped to give us more of a worldview on language,” Wright said. “We actually teach several foreign languages here and the students were extremely excited when we brought the Chinese language into that mix. Our students can begin earning credit here and then can continue that in high school. It is a great mix for business and for them to see that worldview because the world is getting smaller.”

While the program at Baldwin began on a small level, today all students begin exposure to learning the Chinese language and culture beginning in the sixth grade.

“All of our sixth graders take at least nine weeks of Chinese so they can build an interest and foundation in that language,” Wright said. “Then they can take a full year in their seventh and eighth grade years so that when they leave here they will have their first high school unit in Chinese. It has added so much to their education because it is not just about learning the language, but also learning the culture.”

Wright said the school’s diverse population provides an opportunity for students to raise their understanding of other religions and cultures.

“Through the Confucius Classroom program provided through TROY, we have added another dimension to that diversified experience,” she said.

Wenxiu Han, who teaches in Confucius Classrooms at both Baldwin and LAMP, said students are excited to learn the Chinese language.

“It provides another way for students to experience the world,” she said.