March 25. 2013 8:59PM

Henniker sixth-graders spend week absorbing Chinese culture

Union Leader Correspondent

Artist-in-residence Cai Xi and her students at Henniker Community School demonstrate Tai Chi during an assembly on Monday. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER PHOTO)

HENNIKER - A week of immersion in Chinese culture has come to an end for sixth-graders at the Henniker Community School, and on Monday they shared some of what they learned with their fellow students.

With the exception of one unexpected snow day, the sixth-graders spent their days under the tutelage of visiting artists Cai Xi and Mao Mao, who shared some of their Chinese heritage and culture with the kids.

Cai Xi, who has lived in the United States for 20 years and works as a teacher in Vermont, taught the kids how to greet each other in Chinese and gave them lessons in the art of calligraphy. Grasping a bit more of the language came through the three songs Cai helped the kids learn. Cai also taught the students how to exercise using tai chi and helped them make their own swords.

"It was wonderful," said Cai. "It was a good experience. They learn so fast and are so great with each other.

Mao, a dancer, helped the students understand the difference between China's two largest ethnic groups - the Han and the Naxi. The lantern dance - for which they made their own paper lanterns - the ribbon dance, and the dragon dance are all from the Han people, the largest ethnic group in China. But Mao was careful to bring in a dance created by the Naxi as well.

"Everything we introduced, the students absorbed so quickly," said Mao. "They're good listeners, and they're very enthusiastic about what they're doing. It's been wonderful to share my culture with them."

Chinese Exchange teacher Xu Ke, who has been teaching in Henniker and Weare since August, said the students were also taught how to make opera masks, traditional paintings and Chinese-inspired pottery with the help of the school's art teacher. The white and blue bowls made by the kids included some of the symbols they learned, including, "peace, love, friendship and football," said Xu.

"There is a Chinese symbol for football," she said.