Students move beyond the classroom

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By Amy Ryffel-Kragh

How does one properly pour tea during the very beautiful and formal Chinese tea ceremony and why is it important in their culture?

What is the significance of the colors red, black and gold that are so widely used in Asian decorations and culture. Likewise, why bamboo?

Why is there so much art involved in the preparation of Asian cuisine?

Fifth-grade students from Hammett Bowen Jr. Elementary School moved a lot closer to getting answers to those questions when they were able to go from a classroom study about Asian culture to visiting and eating at one of Ocala’s top Asian restaurants.

They were able to watch demonstrations of food preparation, experience a Chinese tea ceremony with explanations, tour the SKY Asian Fusion restaurant and sample a spring roll.

The unique field trip was completely paid for through a field trip grant from Target Corporation, which Carol Runge, home/school liaison from Hammett Bowen Jr Elementary, obtained. The grant was for $700.

Runge worked through the application process more than a year ago on behalf of the school. Her application was selected from a field of more than 25,000 from across the United States, according to a media release from the Target Corporation. 

The grant application was specifically written with the idea of visiting the SKY Asian Fusion restaurant. Runge had to demonstrate an educational purpose and explain why the project could not be done in the classroom. Six classes of fifth-grade students participated in the field trip.

Teacher Marisol Gomez praised the enthusiasm of Runge and acknowledged that the field trip probably would not have happened without her work. “She is fantastic.”

The field trip coincided with the fifth grade students learning about China’s famous Silk Road.

Runge thought that having the field trip at SKY Asian Fusion restaurant, which represents foods from China, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea, was unique and a place many of the students have not gone to before.

SKY, which is located in the Holiday Inn, 3600 SW 38th Ave., is decorated with art like a “gold lucky cat” and bamboo stalks. The gold cat represents wealth. Students had learned of some of the art work they would see in advance of the trip but studied it closely during a tour of the restaurant.

After their tour, executive chef Tony Trinidad gave a demonstration on the art of making spring rolls and offered tastes to the students.

General Manager Robert Huff  performed a Chinese tea demonstration and told of its importance of it in Asian culture. For example, he said tea is served as a “sign of respect” and the Chinese believe tea should be served morning, noon and night. In addition, the tapping of the fingers on a table after the tea has been poured means thank you or more in the Chinese culture.

It “fused” together

After more than a year of work on the trip, Runge called the field trip “positive” and was glad that everything “fused” together.

Target Corporation awarded 5,000 field trip grants this school year throughout the United States, with 384 of those going to schools in Florida, according to the company’s website.