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A pot for bee-bim bop

Students connect literature, food, family

Northfield Elementary School students Lea Chapman, Hailey Haughey, and Hayden Besecker get a little help from their parents as they glaze clay pots they made in an after-school program on Korean culture Tuesday.
Recorder/David Rainville

Northfield Elementary School students Lea Chapman, Hailey Haughey, and Hayden Besecker get a little help from their parents as they glaze clay pots they made in an after-school program on Korean culture Tuesday. Recorder/David Rainville

NORTHFIELD — Local schoolchildren learned to make pottery, use chopsticks and prepare authentic Korean food in a recent after-school workshop.

The “make a pot for bee-bim bop” program was inspired by two books by Linda Sue Park, an American author whose parents immigrated from Korea.

“Bee-Bim Bop!” is a picture book about the relationship between family and food. It’s named after bee-bim bop, a Korean dish composed of rice, meat and vegetables.

The second book, “A Single Shard,” is a novel about an orphaned Korean boy who befriends a master potter after the boy accidentally breaks one of the potter’s pieces, and works for the artist to repay him.

The children, in grades 2 through 6, got to pick which book to read at home with their parents.

Then, they got together at Northfield Elementary School for the first part of the two-night workshop. There, parents and kids got to try their hands at pottery, under the instruction of art teacher Althea Dabrowski. They rolled their clay flat, then formed it over plastic bowls before using tools to engrave designs.

After the pots were kiln-fired, the group got together to paint them Tuesday in the workshop’s second night. They used celadon glaze, which originated in China before spreading to Korea and other Asian countries.

The celadon the kids used was an approximation of traditional celadon, said Dabrowski. She said modern science, for all its trying, can’t match the distinctive gray-green of Asian celadon.

Dabrowski partnered with Susan Wright, the school’s technology integration specialist, for the workshop.

Wright was inspired to hold the Korean-themed program after she went to Los Angeles Koreatown, for an “educators week” program held by the Korean Academy for Educators.

The academy heard about the program in Northfield, and gave the school money for several children’s books, both fictional and factual, related to Korea.

After they glazed their bowls, participants were treated to Korean food, and got to play “yut,” a traditional Korean game.

Besides the experience, the kids got to take home their bowls, chopsticks, a map of Korea and a recipe to make bee-bim bop.

The program was sponsored by the Foundation for Educational Excellence and the Korean Academy for Educators. Manna House, a Korean restaurant in Greenfield, donated kimchee, a Korean fermented cabbage, for the program.

The Foundation for Educational Excellence is a local nonprofit that provides funding for student enrichment programs, professional development and other programs in the Pioneer Valley Regional School District.

You can reach David Rainville at: drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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