Thursday, January 06, 2005

A bit on Dragons

While the European dragons from the days of castles and knights in shining armor are usually mean beasts to be killed, Chinese dragons are much more benevolent. Show your students pictures of dragons from different cultures. Read some of the descriptions (head of a horse, tail of a snake, antlers of a deer; or head of a camel, eyes of devil, ears of an ox, scales of a carp, claws of an eagle; or paws of a tiger, neck of a snake, belly of a clam, talons of a hawk or batlike wings) or learn more about Eastern Dragons. Eric Kimmel wrote The Rooster's Antlers: A story of the Chinese Zodiac (with beautiful papercut illustrations) which is a tale of how the dragon got its antlers.

Many elementary students are familiar with thinking maps. Perhaps they could use them and create a bubble map to describe a Chinese dragon and a double bubble map to contrast Western and Eastern dragons. I have been told that in Iran, the "year of the dragon" is the "year of the whale". I could see some interesting "compare & contrast" lists coming out of that!

Dragons for Dancing

The traditional head for the lion dance or the dragon dance is of paper mache with a hinged jaw. Both seem to have eyes that open and close and often ears that can wiggle. Creating one can be a classroom project especially if you can get if you have the art teachers cooperation.

Heads for a preschool dragon have successfully been made from turning a brown paper grocery bag (with handles) inside out and decorated. Decorated boxes and laundry baskets have also been sued. The body can be fabric or even bulletin board paper (although the later would need to be recreated each year).

Dragon Puppets or Decorations

A tissue box, egg carton or other small cardboard box can be used as the head. Even brown lunch bags have been used. The top of an egg carton cut in half makes a nice shape, (everyone finds it easier to paint the inside red for the mouth or fire before it is folded or reattached). Then small paper plates or eggcups can be glued on the eyes. Covering the head with paper is also fine. Making a paper mache head would be the most authentic but is more involved. For a small (personal sized) dragon, pipe cleaners make nice horns/antlers.

Some teachers have each student create their own and some have one dragon with a very, very long tail or body so that everyone can help decorating it. If the tail becomes too long, it might get unsafe to use for a parade dragon dance. (Here's a clip of a parade dragon dance. Wikipedia's Dragon Dance entry has only still pictures.)

For More on Chinese Dragons, especially in the Zodiac, see:

Updated: 3/2007

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