The Language of Food: Immersive Learning Experience
Call it an eclectic menu offering.
Combining an immersive, off-campus learning experience with language instruction.
"This trip did a lot to help my understanding of the Italian language because our chef and teacher spoke mainly in Italian," says James Simone, Grade 10 student at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS). "This challenged us to practice our vocabulary and learn how to talk in a casual setting."
Simone was among just over a dozen students taking Italian at SMCS who recently headed to the heart of downtown Toronto (Yonge and Bloor) for a unique morning of experiential learning.
"[It] was the perfect completion of a school year dedicated to learning the Italian language and culture," says Irma Fiacco, French and Italian teacher at SMCS. "I decided to choose La Scuola di Eataly because we both share the belief that education is key to understanding the values and traditions in cooking Italy’s regional foods."
The excursion was the culmination of the ‘Buon appetito in Italia’ unit focused on the study of food in relation to regions of Italy.
Supported by the SMCS Parents’ Association (SMCSPA), the half-day trip was packed, serving up a feast for the mind, body, and spirit.
"Students had a guided tour of the place which was a great opportunity to see what Italy and Eataly have to offer around the world and, in particular, here in our community," continues Fiacco, herself a native of Rome. "Students explored the market guided by experts in the field who shared tips and tricks of cooking in the genuine Italian way. They met a couple of culinary experts and learned the secrets of mozzarella-making and bread-making."
For Simone, who describes his cultural background as Italian and Greek Cypriot, there was plenty of hands-on learning.
"Not only did I learn how to make food, but I also learned some new words by hearing them and practicing them," he says. "It is opportunities like this that help me bring to life all that we have learned in the classroom."
Fellow Grade 10 student Evan Amato hopes to improve his spoken Italian.
"I would describe my knowledge of the Italian language as mediocre," he says. "I grew up with an Italian family, so I understand it very well but speaking it is not my strong suit. I was super surprised when I found out we were going because my mom shops at Eataly all the time!"
Watching a professional chef make pasta by hand was a particular highlight for Amato who also appreciated learning the context behind why various regions of Italy cook certain foods in specific ways. "I learned a lot of new words for the names of food that I have never heard before."
For his part, Lukas Kovar’s interest in learning Italian was prompted by a trip of his own.
"I had the opportunity to travel to Italy with my family a few years ago where I enjoyed being exposed to Italian culture and language," says Kovar. "This prompted my interest to select Italian as a new language to learn in Grade 10. I didn’t have any knowledge of the Italian language prior to this course however, since beginning to learn Italian this year with Professoressa Fiacco, I have gained a greater understanding of the Italian language."
In addition to learning artisanal pasta-making techniques, participants were provided plenty of food for thought.
"Throughout the hands-on class, students were taught special techniques and historical information from Italy, passed down for generations," continues Fiacco.
"Chef Mattia invited students to introduce themselves and to share any connection or interest with the 20 Italian regions. He also gave them suggestions on traditional regional dishes to present in their upcoming culminating task based on regions and food. The class continued with students and teachers making their own pasta dough and forming pasta shapes to take home!"
Participants were also treated to a chef-prepared cavatelli con salsiccia e rapini (sausage and rapini cavatelli) dish.
"This was the wonderful conclusion of a field trip based on an authentic learning experience that combined education with tradition," adds Fiacco.
And for James Simone, an enriching off-campus experience geared to further bolster the in-class fundamentals.
"I chose this course to further understand my heritage and learn another language," he says. "My knowledge of the Italian language is growing. I am not at the point where I can speak fluently, but I am practising hard and can understand a great deal. I hope to improve, and events like this will help a lot."