Sixth Grade Trip to the Museum of Food and Drink
In social studies this year, sixth graders discussed the interaction between one’s culture and the food that comes from it while studying ancient civilizations. They celebrated this study with a potluck where each student brought in their own dish from their culture to share. Then, in April, the sixth grade had the opportunity to visit the Museum of Food and Drink in Brooklyn, which was currently showing their “CHOW: Making of the Chinese American Restaurant” exhibit. What a perfect way to connect students’ previous unit about food and culture to their upcoming study of ancient China!
Students started the visit by seeing the “Curtain of Many,” which is a curtain comprised of 7,250 Chinese takeout containers. Sixth graders learned that each takeout container represented seven Chinese American restaurants, meaning that there are about 50,000 Chinese American restaurants in the United States! From here, the two classes participated in a tour of the museum and exciting activities.
On the tour of the museum, students were able to see woks, which are used frequently in Chinese American cooking, learn about the restaurant Wo Hop, which is the longest running Chinese American restaurant in Manhattan, and discuss the changes in ingredients that were made when Chinese recipes came to America, like bamboo being replaced with broccoli. Students then turned their attention to the “Wall of Menus,” showing Chinese American menus. They participated in a scavenger hunt searching the menus for examples of American and Chinese food, English and Chinese writing, and interesting or strange facts. Finally, students learned about and saw examples of Chinese stereotypes that were perpetuated in the 1800s, like people eating rats. This better helped students understand why many Chinese restaurant owners wanted to make their food appealing to Americans to combat these stereotypes.
Students also got to participate in a variety of activities to better understand important aspects of Chinese restaurants. First they saw “Miss Cleo,” a giant fortune cookie machine that when in use could make up to 600 fortune cookies in an hour. Next, students made origami fortune cookies and added their own fortunes. Sixth graders then had a blast competing in teams to use chopsticks to sort Styrofoam peanuts, dried pasta, and corn kernels into bowls! The last activity students enjoyed was flipping a pile of Q-tips in a wok while considering how hard a chef has to work in order to make the many wok dishes we enjoy!
Students ended their field trip eating their lunch in McCarren Park across from the museum on a gorgeous spring day! Overall, sixth grade had a great trip to the Museum of Food and Drink and learned many ways that Chinese American food has become a totally unique cuisine of its own!