Before the start of the Lunar New Year, the Manhattan Lower & Middle Schools community noticed the appearance of beautiful student artwork featuring Chinese characters adorning various doorways around the building. Manhattan Middle School Teacher Shirley Hwang explained that her sixth-grade art students had created door couplets to usher in good luck for the Manhattan campus in the coming year.
“Door couplets always come in sets of two and are hung up on either side of a doorway, gateway, or entrance,” said Ms. Hwang. “They are meant to convey best wishes for the coming year and to drive away evil spirits. Our couplets convey the wishes that students have for the community, including good luck, strength, courage, happiness, and love.”
The sixth graders began working on this traditional calligraphy project in January so they would be able to hang up their door couplets before February 1, which was the first day of the lunar calendar in 2022.
Ms. Hwang was inspired to teach this project to her classes after seeing examples of former calligraphy lessons done by colleague Manhattan Lower School Teacher Shannon Nicholls. Previously, students learned how to write older Chinese characters, aligning with what the sixth graders were learning in their social studies classes about ancient China. But Ms. Hwang introduced modern Chinese characters and her lesson on the tradition of door couplets that people observe to this day to celebrate Lunar New Year.
“The students were excited about making their door couplets, in part because they had just learned about Chinese culture in their other classes,” said Ms. Hwang. “I found the students particularly engaged in this lesson because it was blending social studies with a real-world celebration into one project. The students were able to understand the significance of why people hang up door couplet decorations, and their artwork was another way they were learning about world cultures.”
In future classes, Ms. Hwang is planning for her art lessons to further coincide with the sixth graders’ academic courses. The sixth-grade curriculum focuses on ancient cultures, so the students will be creating Greek amphoras, or clay pots, to deepen understanding on ancient Greece. The sixth graders will be reading the Odyssey in language arts class, learning about myths and legends in social studies class, and then have the opportunity to illustrate scenes from the Greek myths on their amphoras.
View photos of the students’ artwork here.