The first thing I learned is that the Moon Festival, or the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, is a bit of a mixed-up holiday. It's interestingly one part harvest celebration, one part culinary adventure and another part family reunion. Take that and throw in a couple myths and legends just for good measure and you've got the moon festival. I've heard it described as "Chinese Thanksgiving," which I think is an apt description. The comparison always makes me think of a family in China cooking a turkey and baking a pumpkin pie and getting it kind-of-sort-of right -- much like I'm sure I'm doing with the Moon Festival.
I actually wrote out a multi-page lesson plan -- in real lesson plan format complete with an anticipatory set, objectives and activities -- and if you're interested, I'd be happy to e-mail you a copy. What follows is the pictorial version of my plan. Perhaps it will spark an idea or two for you.
Since the Moon Festival is truly a harvest festival, I made two jars for the class: one is filled with rice and the other with wheat, so they could see what's being harvested in China at this time of the year.
I then gave the teacher "Round is a Moon Cake," by Grace Lin to read to the class and provided her with a map of the world so she could show the students China on the map.
Next I provided a box of real moon cakes for her to show the class. I purchased them at a local Chinese grocery store and the Chinese characters on top of them tell what kind of filling each has inside it. The cashier at the market wrote out a little key for me so the kids would know what each moon cake was filled with. I purchased the moon cakes just for the students to look at. If you've ever tasted a real moon cake you know they're a bit of an acquired taste and not something I thought five-year olds would appreciate. I did want them to see real moon cakes though.
Next, I sent a Chinese tea set since drinking tea is such a part of Chinese culture -- and of the Moon Festival. I thought it would be fun for them to see how Chinese tea cups don't have handles and how they are beautifully decorated.
I also sent three boxes of Chinese tea -- ginger tea, peppermint tea and jasmine tea -- for the kids to smell. There were enough tea bags for each one to have their own tea bag and not share germs! I picked three teas that had a strong smell, were distinctive and might be scents the kids would recognize. I got these teas at a Chinese grocery.
I sent two different Moon Cake molds -- oh, do I love Moon Cake molds. Truly, I do. -- along with enough Model Magic for every student to make their own Moon Cake. (It takes two 1-ounce packages to make one full-sized moon cake.) The white Model Magic can be painted too.
I sent a moon cake and pot of tea Coloring sheet for the students to color and I also gave the teacher a lantern for every student in the class, along with a CD I made of Chinese celebration music.
The girls' teacher also had the students do the cutest craft! She gave them all white paper and let them cover it with glitter. They then tore it into pieces and glued it on a black piece of paper to make a moon. Darling.
Finally, I made Moon Cookies using a Moon Cookie mold and a shortbread cookie recipe.
Kenna and Michal wore Chinese dresses to class on the day the teacher talked about the Moon Festival and on the way to school Kenna excitedly told me, "I think my teacher is going to be so excited to learn that I was born in China!"
Here is a complete Resource List:
The clear plastic jars are from the Container Store. The rice is from the grocery store and the wheat came from Whole Foods in the baking aisle.
"Round is a Moon Cake," by Grace Lin
I purchased Moon Cakes at a local Chinese grocery store but you can order them online from a Chicago or New York Chinatown bakery.
I purchased the tea set in Chinatown and the boxes of tea bags at a Chinese grocery store. Pearl River Trading Co. has an interesting assortment of tea and tea sets.
I have one Moon Cake mold that I purchased from Adopt Shoppe and a couple that I purchased from Woks-n-Things in Chinatown. (312) 842-0701 I also purchased the Moon Cookie molds at Woks-n-Things.
This is the shortbread cookie recipe that I used. I only used 3 cups of flour and then rolled the dough into a small ball and rolled it around in flour before pushing it into the mold. It took one or two good whacks on the counter before it popped out of the mold. I baked the cookies for 70 minutes, which seemed to be the correct amount of time. Once the cookies came out of the oven, I sprinkled them with granulated sugar to make the moons sparkle a little.