After trip, teacher gives students a taste of ChinaCottage Grove resident and teacher Ann Mattson wants her sixth-grade students at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights to start thinking globally.
By: Toni Lambert, South Washington County Bulletin
Cottage Grove resident and teacher Ann Mattson wants her sixth-grade students at Convent of the Visitation School in Mendota Heights to start thinking globally.
“It’s important to look beyond our boundaries, to learn new languages and cultures,” Mattson said.
Her research began with a course in East Asian culture at the St. Paul Academy, which made her eligible for a three-week, low-cost study tour to the Peoples Republic of China this summer through Indiana University’s East Asian Studies Center. The tour was supported by the Freeman Foundation.
Mattson focused on Chinese food. “I wanted a topic specifically for sixth-graders, who are always up and moving.”
“Chopsticks: You are what you eat with” is her topic for the teaching module.
“The first thing we’ll do is try to pick up M&Ms with chopsticks,” she said. “That’s really hard to do. Then we’ll try some foods and I’ll tell them about the many different dishes I sampled. We ate everything from chicken feet to fish — from tip to tail. Everything was good and beautifully prepared.”
Mattson said her sixth-graders will probably be appalled and disgusted at first, then impressed that she would eat all the unusual foods.
“You know sixth-grade boys love the dare factor,” she said. “They will dare each other to eat it then barf later.
“They will write a compare and contrast paper on how Americans shop for food and how the Chinese shop and how we both cook. I want them to see the differences.”
Mattson said because most Chinese have very small refrigerators, they shop every day.
“We went to one grocery store filled with tanks of live creatures — some I couldn’t even name,” she said. “Shoppers would point out the one they wanted and walk out of the store with the bag wiggling.
Everything was sold, live toads, squid, octupus and turtles, Mattson said. “The Chinese buy more vegetables than we do and have much more variety from which to choose.”
The tour — comprised of about 20 teachers from around the United States — also visited Chinese schools. From a teacher’s standpoint, Mattson was most impressed with the reverence in which teachers and education are held.
“We would go into a normal classroom with 60 students and not hear a peep, they were very respectful,” she said.
Mattson has been teaching for nine years. “I’ve wanted to teach since I was in the second grade,” she said, “but life got in the way.”
She had a family and worked for the post office for 10 years before going back for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education.
“It was worth the wait,” she said. “I came to it as a mother and with more experience.”
Her next project? Mattson hopes to take a similar trip to Australia in 2010.