Many schools are celebrating an “International Week” as a way to highlight projects completed throughout the year, celebrate the cultural heritage of their students, and of course to learn about different perspectives from around the world. When I ask schools around the world what their students’ favorite activities were for International Week, the #1 answer always has to do with food.
Many people think of kids as picky eaters, who won’t try new foods- which is certainly true in some cases. But under the right conditions, and with the right prompting and preparation, an International Pot-luck during international week might be a way for kids to try different flavors, and learn a bit about cultural cuisines and traditions.
Plan the Details of the Feast
There are several ways to organize an international meal. First decide who will participate. Will you contain the pot-luck within your class? Within the grade level? As a school? (that could be challenging for large schools, but I have heard of it working!). To raise money for an ESL scholarship, my school used to have all ESL participants make a dish for a pot-luck for the teachers, who then donated money to pay for their amazing meal. We also have asked the International Club parents to bring a dish to share for a teacher appreciation luncheon.
Set Ground Rules for the Kids
Use the global feast as a base to talk about politeness, and not hurting others’ feelings. I tell the students to imagine that someone took the time to prepare this intricate dish and share a bit of their culture with you- and then you stick out your tongue and say you don’t like it! This is a time to be appreciative and try something totally new that you normally wouldn’t be able to try at home.
- Be polite and use your manners.
- Take a small amount to taste.
- No making faces or saying something tastes bad.
- Show gratitude to the cooks!
Talk about the ingredients of the food, when it is normally eaten (breakfast, lunch, or dinner), what time of year it is prepared (for a holiday, only in the summer), what utensils are used (if any), and what memories the children associate with the dish. Sometimes we’ll follow up with a youtube video of the preparation of the food, or have a map on hand to point out where the dishes are from. Kids may notice that some similar dishes come from nearby regions (for example the use of corn masa in Latin America or rice dishes from Asia). This is an opportunity to discuss crops and weather, seasonal foods vs imports, and why local diets include certain common ingredients.
When we have a long table filled with new foods, it helps to have place cards to identify the dishes and their ingredients. For example, the large dish in the bottom right of the above picture had a place card that said:
- “Chipaguazu” (name of the dish)
- “Paraguay” (country of origin)
- “Eggs, corn; Vegetarian” (notes about the ingredients for allergies or dietary restrictions)
- “Milagros Cerpa” (name of the person who brought it in)
At our school, the 2 biggest dietary restrictions come from those who do not eat pork, and those who are vegetarian; thus we labelled our foods to accommodate our needs.
We also collected recipes from participants and made a recipe book for the teachers. In one school, we had the kids type up the recipes, assemble them, and then sold the recipe book to make money for our International Club. Have fun with it!
Does your school have an international week? What types of activities do you do? Have you ever had an international pot-luck? How did the students respond? Join us on facebook for more ideas!
If you are planning an International Night or Week, try incorporating Passport Booklet and Stamps from our TPT store! Students each get their own passport, which features inspirational quotes, and teachers can print the stamps out on paper or Avery labels. As students visit the different stations of the event, they can fill their own passports with stamps! The product also includes 8.5×11 posters. Go now! >