Feature Stories

Minnetonka Immersion Students, Teachers and Families Celebrate Chinese New Year

In late February, Minnetonka Schools’ Chinese Immersion students from Excelsior Elementary, Scenic Heights Elementary, MME, MMW and MHS welcomed the Year of the Dragon with a Chinese New Year celebration.

The evening featured performances from different classes and grade levels, Chinese food from local restaurants and activity booths ranging from mahjong and badminton to trivia, crafting, bingo and a photo booth. 

“The event was truly a vibrant celebration of Chinese New Year, filled with energy and enthusiasm that reverberated throughout the gym,” shared Hao Li, an Immersion teacher at Excelsior Elementary. “As someone who has been in the Immersion program for years, I couldn't help but be moved by the spirit and dedication shown by the students during their performances!”

“Parents and teachers were thrilled to be provided with such a wonderful platform to let the Immersion students showcase their Chinese language learning growth and apply their language learning in real-world settings,” said Jennifer Smasal, Excelsior Elementary Principal. “Students were so proud of the songs and dances that they learned, and several shared after the event how fun they thought it was.” 

Students interact at Chinese New Year celebration

The evening included three sections differentiated by grade level. “The preparation for the [Chinese New Year] celebration serves as a rich and immersive extension of classroom learning, empowering students to deepen their understanding and engagement with Chinese language and culture,” said Middle School Immersion Teacher Lilian Dang. “Practicing Chinese language for performances enhances linguistic proficiency, while learning about Chinese traditions and customs fosters cultural appreciation. Students develop essential skills such as communication, leadership and problem-solving as they navigate the complexities of event planning and execution.“

For Dang, watching students perform was a personal highlight of the event. “Their fluency and proficiency in Chinese was awe-inspiring,” she shared. “Many students also thoroughly enjoyed the activities, taking ownership and actively engaging younger students. It was a joy to see such vibrant involvement and cultural exchange throughout the event.”

Students not only performed throughout the night, but also volunteered to support the various activities that accompanied the night. Kenneth Laurence ‘28, an MME student, volunteered at the arts and crafts booth, where activities included making Chinese Dragons, Animal Balloons, and Chinese Lanterns, and MHS student Keona Laurence ‘26 managed the badminton area and assisted with food service. They shared that favorite parts of the event were engaging in badminton matches and participating in the arts and crafts activities.

“It was a wonderful experience to celebrate the Lunar New Year with our Skippers family as we delved into the traditions and cultural significance through the Immersion program,” shared Keona and Kenneth. “The Chinese Immersion program has enriched our perspectives on the Chinese language, and practicing the language during various community engagements has deepened our learning and love for both the language and the culture it represents.” 

Teacher supports students at Chinese New Year event

Fourth Grade Teacher at Scenic Heights Elementary, Xuechen Wang, said he appreciated the opportunity to connect with past students who are now in middle and high school. “Witnessing their development through the performance and program was truly astounding, providing valuable insights into the progress of my current students,” he said. “It serves as a meaningful bridge between past, present and future students.”

Li also enjoyed the opportunity for connection the evening created. “One of the most heartwarming aspects of the event was the sense of connection and reunion that permeated the atmosphere. Former students joyfully reconnected with their teachers, friends reunited after periods of separation and families embraced each other, some after years of not seeing each other due to the natural drift that occurs as students grow older,” said Li. “It was a beautiful reminder of the bonds forged through our shared experiences and the lasting impact of our community.”

Minnetonka Public Schools is home to Minnesota's largest Language Immersion Program with more than 3,000 elementary students enrolled in either Chinese or Spanish Language Immersion. Chinese is offered as a school-within-a-school program at Excelsior and Scenic Heights elementary schools.  

Learn more about the program by visiting MinnetonkaSchools.org/Immersion

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