In grade 5.6 we have been talking a lot about food recently. Studying nutrition and health it was inevitbale. My wife, who happens to be the Japanese teacher for my class, mentioned to a Korean student how much we love chapchae. A couple of days later, we received a bag of noodles and instructions on how to make it, along with a couple of sets of korean chopsticks. Being Japanese (and Canadian), we could not let a nice deed pass without recopricating, so we passed along a favorite of ours with a recipe attached, Quinoa. Though not a Japanese dish, it is one of our families favorites.
Tonight (moments ago) I received an email from the student saying that their family had just enjoyed a nice Quinoa dinner and very much enjoyed it. This got me thinking about food, but not in the health sense that we have been looking at it in class, rather in a more global sense of connection making. Culture and food are so intricately linked to each other that they are often confused as each other. When doing units on culture in an inquiry school, we tell ourselves that we need to move beyond the three F's of food, flags, and festivals and get to the deeper meaning of the concept. Yet, there is some truth to food being. The food we eat is very much a part of where we come from, and where we come from is very much a part of our culture. I found it fascinating that a Japanese/Canadian mixed family could sit down an enjoy a gift from a Korean family, and a Korean family could sit down together and enjoy a gift from us. We were not present at either dinner, but we were sharing our culture, our histories, and how we live. Our cultures were in contact with each other because of our connection through school, but it is us who reached out and shared. Due to the gift giving nature of both cultures, the reciprocity involved allowed the connection to take place.
As I continue to reflect on this, I realize that what we are doing is extending the borders of school, reaching out our hands and connecting schools to families, adding another link in the chain of who we are, and how we live. This web, which started with food, has connected two families that have never met each other (so to speak) in a way that is deep and authentic. The boundaries between school and home seem a little more porous, and the lines that we set up as a society (school or organization) are a little more blurred. Our cultures were shared, but is was deeper and more meaningful. It was not just our surface culture that we shared, but our cultures, the cultures of our families. In doing so, we strengthened the web between school and home, between parent and teacher, and between student and teacher.