Viktoriia Sokolenko

During the class, the students and the teachers bonded by cooking together and sharing the stories about the food that is meaningful for them.

Dumpling and Deep Thoughts brings the students and the teachers together

Dumpling and Deep Thoughts, led by Upper School Spanish teacher Victoria Jansen and Upper School English teacher Stacey Browne, quickly earned its place among the most popular courses on the sign-up form. The possibility of both cooking and eating food was among the most exciting parts of the course; yet, the class exceeded the expectations of both students and teachers, according to sources interviewed.

The idea for the course came to Jansen and Browne during a professional development day. During one of the activities, the teachers had to choose from the list the words that connect to their course expectations. Jansen and Browne both chose “food” and “exploration.” During a discussion, they also found out about their shared love for dumplings, which prompted them to organize a class around this specific type of food.

The planning for the course turned out to be both challenging and interesting; since the teachers did not know their students beforehand, they could not take into account the food preferences or allergies which could influence recipes. 

“The enjoyable part was thinking pedagogically about a dumpling,” Jansen said. “What do we want our students to get out of this? What are the “lessons” that we need to structure in order to reach those goals? And so it was interesting to go from thinking about that in Spanish and literature to thinking about that for food.”

On the first day of the class, Browne and Jansen presented the dumplings that were meaningful for them, and during the next two days, the students got to cook and eat the dumplings they considered special. On the final day, the class went to Fantasy Cuisine to try traditional Chinese dumplings. 

I really learned about the people around me, and it was just nice to see these people around me as very multi-dimensional.

“Having the teachers present their home dumplings, it really brought it to a very personal level – like it was very intimate,” senior Maya Sang said. “Hearing them speak about their home lives and how they grew up, I thought that was really meaningful. I really learned about the people around me, and it was just nice to see these people around me as very multi-dimensional.”

Creating a community out of the students and teachers who may have never interacted before was one of the main goals for the class. Although the teachers planned out several bonding activities, Browne said that the experience was really organic with students taking charge and coming together to cook their dumplings. For both teachers, watching everyone work so cohesively was their favorite part of the course.

“Growing up, whenever I had family get-togethers, there’s always someone cooking in the kitchen. There’s music playing in the background, and people are just passing through and talking,” Jansen said. “And that was really the energy that we wanted to bring to this because that’s something that you see in a lot of the cultures that make dumplings: you don’t just make dumplings for yourself and call it a day. No, you’re making it as a part of something bigger than you. And so we really wanted to highlight that for our students.”

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