Class Activity Invites Students to Share Food & Stories about their culture

Yesterday was our second day of three days of presentations when students share the story of why they have the name they do, bring in a cultural artifact, and share a food with the rest of the class.

What a feast! We had food from around the world–lumpia, chicken mole, hot chicken wings and more which we ate while we watched the film Food Inc.

I’ve done variations of this activity since I began teaching 20 years ago. The current version builds from an assignment I read about online. My students and enjoy really enjoy it: we become closer and we learn about other cultures in a really fun way. It also helps the students work together in groups and have discussions when they know each other’s names and a little about them.

The activity ties in with essays we’ve read by Eric Liu, Brent Staples, Bharati Mukherjee, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mike Rose, Sherman Alexie, Gloria Anzaldua, James Baldwin, Bernard Cooper, Nancy Mairs, and more. On the midterm, I ask a question about what they learned from it.

A Self-Awareness Activity * Presentations of artifact and food by arrangement

Education is all a matter of building bridges. –Ralph Ellison

Insight, I believe, refers to the depth of understanding that comes by setting experiences, yours and mine, familiar and exotic, new and old, side by side, learning by letting them speak to one another. –Mary Catherine Bateson.

Real education should consist of drawing the goodness and the best out of our own students.  What better books can there be than the book of humanity? –Cesar Chavez

The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them.  To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground.–StephenCovey


*To facilitate personal and cultural self-awareness.

*To help you become better acquainted with classmates.

*To give you tools to look beyond stereotypes.


ARTIFACT. Select an artifact that tells a story about your cultural background that you can share with the class. This artifact can be a picture, a coat of arms, or an object (a piece of clothing, jewelry, a tool etc.).  You will probably want to select something that is easy to transport to class.  If possible, choose an item that illustrates something about your cultural background that is not obvious.  We want to learn something about your background that is not readily apparent. If you cannot find a “hidden” part of your background, teach us about what we may not have known about your culture.

NAME. As part of your presentation, prepare to tell us about your name. How does it reflect your cultural heritage?

FOOD. Each person will also bring a family food item to share during class by arrangement.

Turn to your family members to learn more about your background.  If that is not possible, do research so that you have something significant to share with the rest of the class about your cultural heritage. If you do not have an object to bring from home, copy an appropriate picture from a magazine or book, download an image from the Internet, etc.  Remember, the visual component of this exercise is important.

Be prepared to do a 3 minute presentation using written notes to tell the origin of your name, describe your artifact, explain why you selected it, answer any questions, and talk about your food item (when you share it). These notes will be a part of your portfolio. You can write a thought paper on this, but don’t read your TP for your presentation.

When we are finished, we will do an in-class writing activity about what you learned about your background, yourself, and our class from this exercise so you will want to take notes during each presentation. Questions to consider include: *What was the purpose of this activity? *How did this activity help you learn about or increase your awareness of yourself?  Of others? *How does the difference between how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you affect you as a student? *What have you learned about culture? Can you draw connections between this activity and some of the readings?