Olympics open door to Chinese study

Serenaded by Chinese music and followed by twirling and spinning red banners, 6-year-old Anais carried the flag Thursday morning into the Olympic ceremony processional at Walker Elementary School as the Beijing Olympics became reality for 18 area children.

As part of a three-week reading and enrichment program for English as a second language, students age 6-8 studied everything Chinese &

The Great Wall, calligraphy, festivals and the Olympics, which was held on the last day of the program.

"This marks the beginning of the first Walker Elementary Olympics. Let the games begin," educator Marcia Benbough said to the children, who separated into different groups to participate in the games.

There were five events for competition, including the paper plate discus, who had the largest foot, straw javelin and sponge squeeze.

Ron Blood of Ashland, who volunteered for his 7-year-old son Zane's classroom during the regular school year, assisted with teaching Chinese calligraphy and taught Chinese numbers. He explained that the children also learned their Chinese zodiac signs.

Following the events, a formal snack, including Chinese noodles with soy sauce and sesame seeds, watermelon and fortune cookies was served.

The reading program was the brainchild of Benbough, an educator at Walker who wanted the program to include more than reading fundamentals or fun games.

"Research really shows that, with children spending so much time in front of screens, kids need the opportunity to talk," Benbough said. "Many of the students don't get that chance (at home)."

Throughout the three-week course, there was a formal snack of rice provided with tablecloths and silverware where children were encouraged to use proper table etiquette such as waiting to eat until everyone is served.

"The family-style meal is very powerful," said Benbough, who also thought the meal was a great way for the students to get more of a chance to interact with the teachers and each other.

Benbough sent each child home with a souvenir from China and even downloaded a YouTube video of a plane landing when the games were done. Volunteers helped simulate a baggage check at an airport since many of the children had never been away from home.

The children have heritage from a range of countries, including Korea, China, Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, which provided a diversity that Benbough hopes taught them tolerance for each other. The class talked about different colors of skin and eye shapes and Benbough encouraged all of the children to respect one another's differences.

Benbough hopes to continue the program in years to come. Those wishing to become a volunteer for activities at Walker Elementary can call 482-1516.

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