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Classroom Happenings: Rich Discoveries

The Steward School
Exploring the dimensions of literature
Steward students learn to make meaningful connections in all sorts of ways. For Upper Schoolers in English Teacher Stephanie Arnold’s World Literature class, being well-read also means being well-fed. Ms. Arnold and Bryan Innovation Lab Program Specialist Megan Young have been collaborating this school year to offer tenth graders new perspectives about literature. 

Ms. Arnold’s students recently read “The Paper Menagerie,” a short story by Chinese-American author Ken Liu that examines the themes of culture and identity. After reading the story, the students harvested bok choy, carrots, and herbs in the Bryan Innovation Lab community garden under the direction of Ms. Young. Then, these budding chefs chopped and sauteed their way to delicious homemade ramen and potstickers in the Bryan Lab’s kitchen. “Exploring literature becomes an even richer discovery when students can enjoy the sensory experience of cooking and eating the foods associated with a written work,” said Ms. Arnold.  

Ms. Young noted, “This year-long collaboration is a perfect example of how the Bryan Lab can inspire experiential learning. We bring these stories to life with produce from the garden, an educational kitchen, access to innovative materials, and large spaces for group work. These are rich, hands-on experiences that cannot be created within the traditional classroom.”

Last fall, Ms. Arnold’s class read “Oedipus” and wrote essays on the play and its mythology. They also cooked a delicious Greek feast in the Bryan Innovation Lab kitchen. They dined on eggs prepared with feta and fresh herbs; pita; tzatziki; Greek olives; dolma; and spanakopita … plus a special treat: homemade baklava baked by Oren Ziehl ’25. In the Bryan Lab’s Makerspace, they used acrylic paint pens to create traditional Greek motifs on small terra cotta vases.

In the coming weeks, Ms. Arnold’s students will read “Things Fall Apart,” a novel by author Chinua Achebe that depicts pre-colonial life in southeastern Nigeria. After writing analytic essays about the book, students will cook a Nigerian meal in the Bryan Lab kitchen, complete with Kola nuts, Yam Foo-Foo, and other dishes mentioned in the text. They will also hand-dye reusable canvas bags using a traditional Nigerian technique that uses wax-resist methods to produce patterned designs. This technique, known as adire, is used by the Yoruba peoples of southwestern Nigeria. 

At the end of the school year, the students will translate Chinese poetry and work with a local artist to create calligraphy using Chinese characters.  

“In addition to building their reading comprehension skills and refining their writing skills, we want the students to build personal connections from the literature to their lives,” noted Ms. Arnold. “Activities such as cooking and creating art help students connect with the course content and remember the experience fondly.”

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