Representatives from 5-Star Martial Arts in Lancaster brought Chinese culture and tradition to Reynoldsburg High School's Summit Road Campus on Feb. 23 with a colorful presentation of the Lion Dance.

It was part of a program that drew students from several central Ohio schools to celebrate Chinese New Year.

Michele Carlisle, from the Confucius Institute at East Central Ohio Educational Service Center, said the Lion Dance is a good-luck tradition during Chinese New Year parades.

"The lion will visit businesses along the route and those businesses may have lettuce for the lion to chew, and then when spitting out the green leaves, the lion is spreading good fortune," she said.

"For many of our students, Thursday marked the first time any had seen a Lion Dance in person, so it brought some authenticity to what they learn in class."

A number of students from Licking Heights, Coshocton, Tri-Valley, Dover, Tuscarawas Valley and North Canton -- all taking Mandarin classes at their schools -- attended the celebration.

"We were excited to collaborate with schools from around Ohio and delve into Chinese culture to expand our students' knowledge of the country," eSTEM Academy Leader Scott Bennett said.

In Reynoldsburg, Mandarin is a distance-learning program for students at Summit Road STEM and Herbert Mills Elementary, Baldwin Road Junior High and eSTEM Academy.

Carlisle said students learned more about Chinese culture by visiting workshop stations devoted to Chinese knotting, martial arts, traditional costumes, chopstick fun -- where they attempted to pick up marshmallows with chopsticks -- Chinese lantern-making and calligraphy.

"While we write each day in class, as part of the holistic language-instruction approach, it is also very good for students to create the characters they are learning in the traditional fashion of using brush and ink and paper," Carlisle said.

"The calligraphy station was a great way to review characters each student should have knowledge of, no matter which classroom they were coming from."

Some of the costumes came from a museum in Chicago and were designed to help students learn how different people in different stations of life may have dressed during Chinese history, she said.

Students could take home the lanterns they made.

"Lanterns are a sign of reunion, used to celebrate festive and joyous occasions," Carlisle said.

Bennett said he hopes to make the celebration a yearly event at the Summit Road campus.

"The turnout was great and the response from students tells us that they enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from it," he said.

Carlisle said she enjoyed bringing the students together.

"While all the details had been considered, it was still a bit nerve-wracking to have students come together for the first time, but it turned out amazingly well," she said.

"The day was very successful, the students were engaged in the activities and seemed to really enjoy themselves all day."

Carlisle said the purpose of the Confucius Institute is to share Chinese language and culture by providing Chinese language instruction to school districts across the state.

"The ability to bring culture activities to these learners is a huge part of this mission," she said.

The Institute operates under the umbrella of the College Board, which works with Hanban, the Educational Ministry of China.

pwillis@thisweeknews.com

@PamelaThisWeek