Confucius Institute partners celebrate autumn at Coan Middle

Students from around Atlanta Public Schools and partners from both Emory University and Nanjing University came together as part of the Confucius Institute‘s 2009 Mid-Autumn Festival held Thursday at the Atlanta Confucius Institute, which is housed at Coan Middle. Performers ranged from Coan and the four other APS participating schools: Toomer Elementary and Carver School of the Arts, Maynard H. Jackson and North Atlanta high schools.

Guests enjoyed a mix of culturally enriching performances from the Confucius Institute, a program that celebrates the study of Chinese culture and language as students from K-12 study Mandarin Chinese. Performances included a dragon dance, Chinese dialogue, recitation of poems, a rap song, skits and a performance by Emory student Julie Zhu Weijia on the ghuzhen instrument for the crowd-pleasing “Fishermen’s Evening Song.” Monishae Mosley-O’Neill, APS director of literacy and world languages, offered a closing-ceremony speech.

For Coan third-year Chinese-language teacher Yi-Peng Wang, the festival gave the students an opportunity to take their knowledge out of the classroom and put it into practice.

“We’re trying to teach them language and culture, and show them what other schools are doing in order to motivate them to work harder in the classroom,” said Wang, whose wife, Jia Feng, teaches Chinese at Jackson High. “This is a great way for all of our students to see what everyone’s doing and to talk to each other.”

Coan first-year Principal Tonya Saunders helped bring the Confucius Institute to APS four years ago while she was the principal at Toomer, a feeder school for Coan.  She joined a group of principals and other educators from around Georgia on a fact-finding trip to Beijing this past summer, and hopes to expand the institute’s scope. “We’re looking for scholarship opportunities for the children, and we hope that some of these students will eventually become Chinese teachers themselves,” Saunders said. “We know that by studying Mandarin Chinese, in this economy they can be more globally competitive.”

Eighth-grader Altameshia Kennedy has been studying the language for three years, and believe it’s a lot easier to learn than some people may think. She also appreciates the chance to learn more about another language and culture. “It opens more opportunities for me,” said Kennedy. “I could be a translator for someone who speaks Chinese. Chinese isn’t offered everywhere, so you want to take advantage of an opportunity like this when you can.”

Food was provided by community partner Panda Express.

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