Elkins Middle School students take part in dragon parade

A group of Elkins Middle School sixth-graders show off masks they made for Tuesday’s dragon parade. The annual event is designed to teach students about Chinese culture and to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

ELKINS — Sixth-grade students at Elkins Middle School celebrated the upcoming Chinese New Year by crafting masks and having a dragon parade Tuesday afternoon.

“This is an interdisciplinary unit centered around Chinese New Year. Each school subject will teach some aspect of Chinese culture, history or science,” sixth-grade social studies teacher Richard Leitner said. “We like to have the children more involved with creating these masks for our parade, and then … they are given an opportunity to look and share everybody’s efforts.”

The event, which began at the school more than a decade ago, features the students showing off their creations to seventh- and eighth-grade students by parading through the gymnasium.

“Mrs. (Tammy) Lipscomb helped us start this and she is retired now,” Leitner said. “It’s been probably about 15 years now.”

“Dragon Coins” are rewarded to students who created the top 20 masks, based on effort and display. Those coins can be used for “live school points,” which provide admission the extracurricular events throughout the year.

With every passing year, the students’ creations get more elaborate and impressive, Leitner added.

“Each year amazes me. Each year you think that you’ve mastered the aesthetics of these masks, then they outdo each other one year after the other,” he said.

“I think there is a different individual touch that’s going on with each of these masks,” Leitner said. “Some people created puppets, some people created a two-headed mask, which is neat.”

The masks are made using a wide variety of media.

“You’ll see people using all different types of materials to create these, from paper mache to cardboard boxes to, maybe, Styrofoam cups,” Leitner said. “And, they definitely used tissue paper a lot, feathers, all sorts of things.”

Leitner said the project is ideal for teaching about diversity.

“We have to teach that there is diversity and cultures out there,” Leitner said.

Today and Thursday students on the blue and orange sixth-grade teams will go to an area Chinese restaurant for a luncheon to celebrate their efforts.

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