Dim Sum for Everyone!

“Pass the shui mai, please.” 

"These sesame rolls are delicious.”

“I like the pork buns the best.”

This was some of the lunch conversation overhead in the activities room at Meadow Pond Elementary School as kindergarteners nibbled dim sum. The small plates sat on brightly colored placemats the students had decorated themselves.

The tasty immersion into Chinese culture as well as one of the things that connects us —eating together—all started with the book “Dim Sum for Everyone!” by Grace Lin, one of the new multi-cultural books in Katonah-Lewisboro’s elementary school classrooms. 

Kindergarten teacher Jackie Kovatch followed her students’ interest and provided them with the resources and structure to learn more. What transpired was an exciting experience that enlivened information and folded math, reading, collaboration and small motor skills into the fun.

Students used a Padlet of resources that Kovatch created to research parts of Lin’s book. They learned that dim sum means a "little touch of heart" and yum cha means "let's go drink tea.”

They looked at a local dim sum restaurant’s menu together and saw photographs of many different types of dim sum including dumplings, pork buns, shui mai, turnip cakes, spring rolls, egg tarts and sesame rolls.

Kovatch noticed that the students really connected with the book's illustrations of the dim sum carts that are pushed through Chinese restaurants. “As a protective measure this year, many of the fun specials in school—library, music, art—come to classrooms,” said Kovatch. “The teachers push their materials on carts that look a lot like the carts in a dim sum restaurant!”

The idea grew. Using construction paper, tissue paper and tape, the students made their own dim sum and colorful table settings for a classroom dim sum restaurant. “Let’s charge $1 for each plate,” the students decided. They could track their customers’ orders on individual receipts and add up the bill.

The students implemented all of their ideas—complete with carts borrowed from reading specialist Melissa DeMarco and music teachers Melissa Richardson and Linda Kirshenbaum. The next day, dim sum ordered from a restaurant and coordinated with parents ahead of time, was delivered by Kovatch’s daughter Cecelia. It was a feast and, just like what happens in “Dim Sum for Everyone,” everyone got a taste of everything.