Chinese Crafts for Summer Camps

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Hello, Summer! We are enjoying the change of pace in Maine as the state swells with visitors looking for beaches, ice cream, lighthouses and relaxation. Many of your kids are also headed to summer camps in places like Maine, and camps are a great place to introduce Chinese crafts. (I think you knew where I was going with this!)

Day camps usually need quick make-and-takes while overnight camps often have a well-stocked art area where more involved projects can be done (many steps, or involving dry time in between). I’m excited to be leading a craft session this week at a local Chinese Dragon Camp through the Bangor Chinese School. It is a short timeframe since it’s a day camp with a rigorous Mandarin learning schedule, and we are making kites and chops which are both in Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts. I have modified both projects to simplify the steps and cut the time considerably. The campers are grades 4-12 so I can have high expectations of their ability to follow the steps at a good clip.

Some of my other favorite Asian culture camp crafts are fans, floating dragon boats, shadow puppets (and stage), paper making and knot tying, depending on the age level. If you don’t have multicultural or heritage camps in your area, consider how culture-specific projects can be worked in with your usual ‘greatest hits’ for camps crafts.

One other mention this summer; two wonderful bloggers that are passionate about multicultural parenting have recently posted reviews of my book. Please check them out and share their lovely work at: www.hybridparenting.org and Oaxacaborn.com.

The camp atmosphere is wonderful for teaching kids about being world citizens. Music, cooking, dance and storytelling are just some of the other activities that can be rolled into an international theme. The best part is you have the great outdoors to be your art studio and you can gather materials from nature. Happy Camp Crafting!

Dragon Boats and Lobsters

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Photo credit: Hartford Courant

Greetings from Maine! Summer is still here, as far as I’m concerned. My daughter doesn’t go back to school until after Labor Day, of course falling late this year. So I see it as my obligation, living in “Vacationland”, to wedge in more fun with friends and family, and eat more lobster.

I’ve woven a couple of great events into our Lucky Bamboo Crafts schedule this summer… an experience in contrasts. Each gave us a unique opportunity to share Chinese culture with very different audiences.

The Newport Cultural Center near Bangor, Maine hosted a Chinese craft and culture activity time at their multi-purpose center and library. The summer program kids and other local library visitors in that area do not get much exposure to other cultures outside Maine rural life so it was very satisfying to share what I could about China. And with my daughter by my side leading the origami table, this proud mama also got to interject a bit about adoption and being a multicultural, multi-race family.

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Then off to Hartford, CT for the Riverfront Dragon Boat and Asian Festival which I attended for the first time two years ago. I was yet again completely energized by the huge vibrant and diverse crowd. Along with leading the craft tables, I made sure to spend some time watching the dragon boat races, enjoying the performances and eating delicious Asian fare. Now that Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts has been out for a couple of years, it’s particularly exciting when I’m able to still share my inspiration with loads of new people including educators and multi-ethnic families.

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My Crowdtivate campaign was extended for a few more weeks so please check out this link to my video and details! https://www.crowdtivate.com/projects/view/4261  I’m excited to be branching out to craft kits and appreciate the funding that has already been donated to bring this to life.

The months ahead are still being planned for Chinese crafts. The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, and the Year of the Monkey (as much as I don’t want to think about February in New England) will be my focus for planning some events and designing some new crafts. But for now, the lobster and warm breezes prevail!

Crowdtivate Craft Kits

I’m jumping in here with a brief post to announce the launch of my (first ever) crowdfunding campaign for craft kits with the Crowdtivate platform. I was very lucky to have support from my Singapore friends with putting it together and getting it live. Marketing has never been a strong point for me but it was time to stretch a bit. Only 56 days left to get on board! Also I would love to hear from you with any feedback about this Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts “kit” concept. Yes, I’m ready to make it grow! Here is the link to my campaign page: https://www.crowdtivate.com/projects/view/4261. Many thanks!

Chinese Culture Craft Kits

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Happy Spring! In Maine I should add a few more exclamation points this year… whew we have had a long wait. But I can now divert attention away from frigid weather and vitamin D deficiency and think crafts again.

I am putting up a crowdfunding campaign soon for my newest little brainstorm- craft “kits” that will be a nice companion to the book. I’m starting small, selecting a few specific craft designs and offering some materials and partial assembly so crafters can dive right in.

This is a new stretch for me… working out my goals and logistics. But my good friend and favorite business guru in Singapore is helping me get involved with Crowdtivate https://www.crowdtivate.com, a wonderful Asia-based campaign platform. The video intro seems to be my biggest stumbling block. Maybe if I hang around with my thirteen-year-old more I can pick up some camera and editing skills. I’ll keep you “posted”.

The Dragon Boat (Duanwu) Festival is coming up on June 20th. This is a great teaching point for educators and many projects and activities can tie into the celebration. I’ve signed on for crafting at the Riverfront Dragon Boat & Asian Festival in Hartford CT on 8/15-8/16 which will surely be a highlight of my summer. Here is the link: http://www.riverfront.org/events/riverfront-dragon-boat-asian-festival

Now is a good time to think about summer camps, teacher gifts, grandparent activities, end of school gifts, and all the ways Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts; Over 100 Projects & Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture can be a part of the fun!

Teaching about Chinese New Year

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Now that we are back in gear after school break, I have some lesson plan suggestions for Chinese New Year in the classroom as you begin your planning. These ideas are all personally “teacher tested” and they can adapt up or down for grade level.

The actual date of ‘Year of the Goat’ (also known as Ram or Sheep) is February 19th, 2015. I point this out because for most districts, this will fall during February break so you will want to celebrate the week of the 9th, or hold off until the end with the Lantern Festival falling on March 5th.

A good approach to keep students engaged is to include the following five pieces (I will not do four- it is an unlucky number- did you know that?). If you have an easy projection method, any part of your lesson can be supported with images and videos. So here goes :

1) History- Start with a brief historical overview about the meaning and significance of the holiday. This is when some students will interject they know “all about it”… but for Western classrooms most don’t think about Chinese culture or the holiday at all for the rest of the year. They can use a refresher! Include common ancient folklore such as the story of Nian the monster (great for younger kids) as well as the meaning behind the lunar zodiac, dances, parades and respectful time and rituals with family.

2) Food- Any teacher knows if you offer something edible, you get a captive crowd (actually that is true for many situations?). This could be as elaborate as dumpling making, or as simple as giving out almond cookies… but either way, discussing the traditional foods of a Chinese New Year banquet and their symbolism should be part of the plan.

3) Decorations- Adorning the classroom with paper garlands and lanterns, ‘Fu’ art, couplets on the doorways, and bowls of citrus, etc… is an essential part of the festive celebration. Lots of red!

4) Craft time- Select appropriate projects to grade level and time set aside. If you want a group activity, making a giant dragon dance head is a good activity to preface a parade around the school.

5) Giveaway- Hong Bao (lucky money red envelopes) are inexpensive in solid packs and a nice gift (in the spirit of the holiday) for your students. You can enclose a shiny penny, a fake gold Chinese coin, or a small toy or candy. If you have trouble finding them locally, there are numerous mail-order sites. Of course the students will already have a snack and a craft and that may be enough!

For specific ideas, instructions and templates, I encourage you to add Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts to your resource library! You can also check out my Pinterest pages, and my free printable craft off this website. As an educator, you are also probably web-savvy and can do research for your particular class. I think the most important piece is framing how this holiday fits into a multicultural world, and how extremely significant it is to Chinese people, where ever they call home. You will find that sharing the Lunar New Year with your students will tick many curriculum boxes and most of all, will be loads of fun!

Chinese Adoption- the Magic and the Mysteries

Homeland Trip to Yong Feng County, Jiangxi Province

You would think I’d be used to it by now. Raising a daughter that is so very definitely, positively, undeniably mine. But then I watched the PBS documentary ‘Twin Sisters’ recently about Chinese twins adopted by families as infants- one growing up in a tiny village in Norway, the other in urban California. Many memories and emotions bubbled up again that I had obsessed over long ago through the adoption process and early parenting years surrounding taking my daughter from China and her first family roots.

There are common questions felt by many international adoptive parents; how will my child frame and overcome never knowing who her birth family is, whether she has biological siblings, the circumstances around her abandonment…. heady stuff for sure. I remember the many nights working on her lifebook (adoption mamas know what this is) into the wee hours… making sure every word was crafted and image vetted to tell my daughter her story in just the “right” way. Is it sad? Is it a joyous journey of serendipity? Is it just what it is?

I read a NY Times op-ed last month about young Chinese today and the rural vs. wealthy urban disparity in educational opportunities. What if my daughter had stayed in her tiny rural town, blanketed in lotus fields? Is “what if” even relevant? ‘Somewhere Between’, another documentary that profiles adopted girls excavates even further the questions and longings experienced by some families. One Chinese-American teen goes so far as to return to China in search of her birthmother. (That’s a spoiler heads-up to preview before sharing with younger kids).

All of these quality written and documentary explorations snag my interest and for a bit, I can’t turn away. It’s all part of the fabric of my family… the reality we live with, juxtaposing daily life with the history which will never be written.

At a recent school conference, my daughter’s teacher reflected on an assignment where students were to construct a timeline of their personal best/worst/significant life events. The teacher said she had pointed out to the class to note anything remarkable about their birth and joining their family. She then implied to us with a grin that my daughter had not really felt there was! Huh?

Perhaps we raised our daughter with a feeling of normalcy and being comfortable accepting her beginnings. That was certainly always our hope and dream. She was seven when I made the long journey back to China with her for a “heritage trip” to visit her orphanage staff and to our surprise, met her foster family as well. She was cool as a cucumber (unlike her mother) and I think it reinforced to her that we DO acknowledge and cherish all of who she is and our great fortune in that. The only other residual effect I can say for sure is I now have a daughter with insatiable travel fever. And at the end of the day, I have to believe love is the answer to most any longing that tries to take hold of her heart.

Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts and Gift Giving

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As we all enjoy a busy spring celebrating graduations, events and the end of school, I wanted to remind you of what a perfect gift ‘Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts’ can be for those special people in your life.

Teachers, caregivers, graduates in education and international programs…. all would appreciate this unique and high quality book that they will use for years to come. Will the kids be spending time with grandparents or going on holiday with friends’ families or relatives after school lets out? Send a book along with them to get the activities going for the hopefully few rainy days.

Are your kids going to day or overnight camp this summer? Or do you have a teen that is working at a camp? How about a preemptive gesture (o.k., bribe) to be sure your family will be in good favor with the staff and your kids will get careful and positive attention! Camps are always looking for new craft ideas that don’t require a lot of costly materials.

If you want to pull out the stops, add some small items like a pack of origami paper, some decorative chopsticks, an inexpensive fan, or a simple art supply such as markers. And of course if you know anyone that is bringing home an adopted Chinese child soon, this book is an ideal introduction to Chinese culture for the child, siblings and parents.

You can purchase directly from me, a local retailer, or it is currently nicely discounted on Amazon (and can arrive or be gift shipped in a flash with Amazon Prime) and many other book retail sites. My distributor, IPG has done an amazing job getting the book out and available worldwide!

Happy Spring Gifting and Summer Crafting!