Inside the Bryan Innovation Lab’s high-tech kitchen, a group of third graders can barely contain their excitement. In conjunction with their studies on Asia, they are about to learn how to make sushi. On the Bryan Lab’s expansive stainless-steel work table are individual place settings neatly laid out for each student: bamboo mats topped with sheets of dark-green seaweed, and bowls of water that will help the young chefs handle the fragrant, sticky Jasmine rice that is the basis for the sushi they’re about to assemble.
Director of Dining Service Anne Maury Haapala greets the group with a wide smile and a question: “What’s the most important thing to remember when you’re working in the kitchen?” Hands spring up, and students offer suggestions. “Safety!” exclaim several of them. “That’s right,” says Ms. Haapala, who goes on to explain that the ingredients before them — slivered carrots, juicy mango, sliced red and yellow peppers, and chopped avocado — will soon become edible pieces of art.
Under Ms. Haapala’s guidance, the students learned the art of sushi making as they spread a layer of rice on the seaweed, added colorful toppings, and created a tight “log” that they then sliced into small medallions. Proud of their newfound culinary skills, they sampled their delicious creations. “Anne Maury Haapala is a gift and a treasure,” said Third Grade Teacher Andrew Routzahn.
Mr. Routzahn and Third Grade Teachers Elizabeth Houston and Ashley Lenhart have been “traveling” to different continents this year, leading students through their social studies curriculum. Their goal is to use Ms. Haapala’s demonstration chef experience to deliver the authentic foods of each continent they study.
In third grade, teachers emphasize self-directed learning and encourage students to be teachers in training. “They read and research, and then teach the class what they learned about their country,” explained Mr. Routzahn. Students in each continent unit test out their map skills by locating the countries in each continent. They practice their public-speaking skills when they present a country profile poster to the class about the traditions, cultures, landforms, landmarks, animals, and foods of their country.
“During our Asia continent unit, students visited India’s Taj Mahal, the Philippines, and China through virtual field trips,” explained Mr. Routzahn. “We celebrated the Chinese New Year with a lantern festival and learned about the Year of the Rabbit. Exploring the foods associated with a culture is a great way to enrich learning!”