Year of the kosher ox at Hillel Academy

Hillel Chinese celebration

Hillel Academy kindergartners and first graders helped art teacher Scott Gibbs build this dragon puppet, which the students paraded in the lunch room on Jan. 26, the Chinese new year


By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer

Students, faculty and staff of Hillel Academy Jewish day school sampled a taste of Chinese culture on Jan. 26, the Chinese new year.

During lunch, a dragon puppet — held up with first-grade and kindergarten feet — danced its way to the beat of drums around the lunch room. Hillel art teacher Scott Gibbs designed the puppet and the students helped him build it.

This was the centerpiece of a full day of learning about Chinese culture in the kindergarten and first-grade classes.

“Two students, John and William Groger, children of Dr. Rich Groger and Dr. Kaili Fan, observe the holiday in their home,” Gibbs said.

Fan was born in China. She and her husband are internal medicine/infectious disease physicians.

Dr. Kaili Fan and Dr. Richard Groger with their sons, first-grader John, and kindergartner William

Fan said her sons’ teachers came up with the idea for the all-day project. First-grade teacher Jane Collins and kindergarten teacher Myra Katovich said they saw a learning opportunity because of the Groger children, who are in kindergarten and first grade.

“The children made their own dragons and paper lanterns,” Collins said. “They cooked, they made their own fortune cookies with Mrs. Fox, and Dr. Fan came in and read stories with them. We also learned a song.” Fan also demonstrated calligraphy, writing each child’s name in Chinese on a bookmark for the students to take home.

The students read about different new year celebrations for their social studies unit.

“Both new years are based on lunar calendars,” Groger said of the Jewish and Chinese holidays. “Both have leap months.”

Fan and Groger moved to the Dayton area four years ago; they learned about Hillel from friends whose children were in the school’s kindergarten.

“They’re always doing these special activities at Hillel,” Groger said. “It’s a really good school,” Fan added. “I’m surprised it’s so small. I would think anyone would want to bring their kids here.”

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