Chinese dragons on parade at school

Dragons crowded the gym floor at Elkins Middle School on the last day of February. These creatures had been waiting throughout the snowy West Virginia winter for their opportunity to celebrate Chinese traditions. The Dragon Parade is the culminating activity for the sixth grade Chinese Studies Unit.

Sixth graders study some aspect of Chinese culture with each core classroom teacher at the middle school. In math class, they study the Chinese numbering systems, in language arts they learn about the characters of Chinese calligraphy and in social studies they explore Chinese history and culture.

Every year for the past 10 years, the sixth-grade students have gone to taste the food at a Chinese restaurant. Half of the sixth grade goes one day and the other half goes the next. Social studies teacher Rich Leitner has many ingenious methods for raising money so that no child will miss out on this cultural experience.

Although we do not have much ethnic diversity in West Virginia, Leitner believes the Chinese population is growing. Most years he has at least one Chinese student, and this year he has two in the sixth grade. He finds that his students are getting more local opportunities to learn about Chinese culture.

Leitner has been the professional development school liaison for Elkins Middle School during the four years that the Kump Center has facilitated the PDS collaboration with Davis & Elkins College and Randolph County Schools.

Leitner understands how much his students benefit from having college students in the middle school, and he always tries to give the college students a meaningful professional experience.