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Meet Shen!

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Meet Shen! He is easygoing and upbeat with a style all his own. He has a keen eye for fashion and a unique ability to mix and match different trends. Because Shen is friends with almost everyone, he mixes and matches friend groups, too! He brings people together and values what makes everyone unique. Shen is always looking toward the future and believes in giving back to his community. He wants to leave a kind, clean world for the next generation and spends lots of his free time volunteering. Shen is an empathetic and valued member of his family, school, and community.

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Shen’s dad, Ri-Shan, is an accountant, and his mom, Ying-Yue, is a teacher. Shen’s nai nai, Wen-Hua, takes care of his little sister, Mei-Feng, while his parents are at work. His older brother, Kai-Yan, taught Shen everything he knows about fashion, and they love playing video games together. The Li family is very involved in the community and loves hosting large, traditional Chinese dinners for their friends and family.


Shen values his family and community and loves to spend time helping others. He is interested in fashion and creatively finds ways to weave diverse trends into his wardrobe. Shen enjoys spending lots of time with his friends and always makes sure that everyone feels included.

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Each of the Fly Five characters has a unique story to tell. While they all live in the same neighborhood and share many interests, teams, clubs, and classrooms, they have different strengths, values, hopes, and ways of perceiving the world. The human interest stories offer students and teachers an opportunity to connect with the characters more deeply, as the stories are first-person accounts of an important moment in each one’s life. From coming-of-age reflections about family and faith to explorations of one’s place in their cultural history, these stories remind us of the ways we are all connected: through our relationships, our triumphs and struggles, and our ability to find hope and resilience no matter what challenges life presents.


Stitching Together Traditions

At the Lantern Festival for the Chinese New Year, my brother, Kai-Yan, and I like to search for constellations. As we look for stars between the twinkling red and gold lanterns, I’m always fascinated that my family in Shanghai lives under the same sky and that everyone who came before us lived under the same sky, too. I think that’s why I’ve always loved the Chinese New Year: everyone celebrating has a similar experience. We clean our houses for good luck, eat special food together as a family, and hang red and gold lanterns for the Lantern Festival. I feel connected to the whole Chinese community, even my ancestors. They had the same traditions, too. When I wear my changshan, make lanterns, and come together as a community to celebrate Chinese New Year, I’m keeping traditions alive. It feels like I’m connected to both the past and the future.

This year, I made my own changshan for the first time. I’d seen an old photo of my yéye wearing one that had deep red silk with golden piping and intricate embroidery on one side.

“He made it himself,” Nai Nai told me. “Stitched it with his own hands. It was one of a kind.” She was proud.

I already had a changshan of my own, but it was from a store and I’d almost outgrown it. I wanted one like Yéye’s.

I came home from school the next day, and Nai Nai had laid out red and gold silk fabric in her sewing room. “We’re going to make you a new changshan for the Lantern Festival this year,” she told me happily. “It will make your yéye proud.”

Nai Nai has been teaching me to sew for a while, but the changshan was the biggest challenge. The stitching was difficult, and I wanted to make one that would impress my family. What if I made one that my yéye wouldn’t be proud of?

As I followed Nai Nai’s lead, I couldn’t help but imagine making a changshan for my dad, for my brother, or even for my family in Shanghai. I was a little ahead of myself though because my finished changshan didn’t turn out exactly the way I hoped it would. My embroidery was crooked, and the collar wasn’t quite right. But Nai Nai stepped back and admired it.

“It’s perfect,” she said, “because you made it.”

When my family and I went to the Lantern Festival, my dad, my brother, and I each wore our changshans. Kai-Yan and I looked up at the new moon, and it felt like Yéye was watching over us, like he was at the lantern festival, patting me on the back for my sloppy stitching. I already felt connected to my Chinese heritage, but the more I learn about it and the more I participate in it, the stronger it feels. I feel lucky to be a part of a community that’s so big and has such a rich heritage, and I can’t wait to continue learning more about it as I get older.

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  • Fly Five is designed with the awareness that diversity and representation is a non-negotiable aspect of social and emotional learning. Central to this curriculum is our cast of nine characters who are grounded in authentic storylines that represent diversity of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, religious beliefs, family structure, socioeconomic status, and more. In creating the characters, we employed a careful, critical research process to ensure that their cultures, interests, appearance, and family structures are accurately and respectfully depicted.
  • Research for Shen included an examination of Chinese culture, traditions, family structure, and roles, as well as the lived experiences of Chinese-American families.

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