Sunday, March 16, 2014

In the Art Room: Let's Make Sushi!

Konichiwa, ya'll! As you might recall, my wee artists are learning about Asia this year with a current focus on Japan (Asia's a big ol' place, not sure we'll be able to focus on much beyond Japan, India and China, sadly. I'd say I need a longer school year but that'd be crazy talk). Last year, when we were travelling Europe in art class, we had tea and biscuits when learning about the United Kingdom. The kids pretty much thought that was the best thing ever. For that reason, I got the notion that we outta learn about the Japanese art of crafting sushi by making some of our own -- both collage...and edible!
 I began this lesson with my 1st grade students by doing our usual: looking at the map, finding Asia, finding Japan, chatting about what makes it an island, counting the four main islands in Japanese (ichi! ni! sahn! shi!), you get the idea. We then chatted about how rice is a staple in many Asian countries. And, with Japan being an island and all, their main source of protein is fish. This go a lotta "eeew!"s from the 1st grade set who declared: I hate fish! Unless it's buttered, battered and fried, a la Chef de Capt. D's, that is. We are in the South, after all. We eat our Moonpies the same way.

But, kids! Many times, their fish isn't cooked. It's raw!

 This got a lotta wide-eyed stares from the peanut gallery. At this point, I busted out the super sweet book Yoko by Rosemary Wells. If you've not read it, it's all about a little Japanese-American cat who takes her sushi to school only to be made fun of by her classmates. In the end, her teacher saves the day, as usual (it's what we do). After reading, the kids and I decided that food that is unusual to us isn't weird, it's just different. And, possibly, delicious.
My inspiration for the collage portion of this project came from the book First Book of Sushi by Amy Wilson Sanger. The images in the book are these amazing collages that look rad and were surprisingly easy for the kids to create.


Another source of inspiration for the kids was my set of sampuru (which means sample in Japanese. Note, this is not my set but an example pulled from the interwebs). I told them about how when I was in Japan, the restaurant windows were filled with sampuru to give potential diners an idea of what to expect inside. Creating sampuru is a fine art in Japan as it's meant to look realistic and enticing. So our collage sampuru had to do the same.

If you wanna make a totes delish sushi collage as well, here's what ya gotta do (in 30 minute art classes):

Day #1: Printmaking! We did some monoprinting on a new class favorite the Gelli-Art plates. They print just like gelatin (go here for my most popular blog post to date [which isn't saying much, ahem]) but without the prep and the bad feeling you get when you find out where gelatin comes from (animal bones, people). The draw back? They are pricey -- these were $10 a pop. I had one for each two kids and they seemed content, albeit chatty, to take turns. These printed papers later became their plate for sushi.

Day #2: Making sushi! After reading our talk and reading about Yoko, we started by making two sushi rolls. In the story, we saw how Yoko's mom made the sushi by laying out the seaweed, pressing the sticky rice on top, adding a surprise and cutting the sushi. We wouldn't be able to experience those steps until later...so for now, we simply traced circle templates and added our surprises inside the circles. Most of us stuck to green for avocado or cucumber, orange for carrots and pink for fish.

Day #3: With our plate and sushi created, we learned about common Japanese condiments while eating sushi. We chatted about how we use ketchup, mustard, salt, pepper here...but in Japan, they use wasabi (some kids had tales of this super hot green stuff), ginger and soy sauce. We created that, the green grassy garnish, some sashimi and chopsticks.

This hat was a pretty big hit with the kids...although they kept looking at my head and saying things like, "ohh, you are making me hungry!" which I thought was odd until I remembered just what was on my head! DIY directions here.
Day #4: On our last day, we put the finishing touches on our sushi collage and added a black border as well as a paper frame. Because we've gotten so much use out of our random painted scrap papers (thanks for the idea, Painted Paper!) I don't throw anything away. It's kinda a problem. But it makes for such fun collage material!
Ohhhh, looks delish!

Day #5: Candy Sushi party! As a wrap up for this lesson, I thought it'd be super fun for the kids to make candy sushi. Of course they were all over that idea! In fact, I mentioned it a little too early in the lesson which lead to the question "when is candy sushi day?!" like, every 5 minutes. I finally set a date and the anticipation was through-the-roof high.

To make it a wee bit more authentic, I greeted the kids at the door in my kimono and asked them to remove their shoes and place them up against the wall. Thankfully my room smelled like a candy factory which cancelled out the stinky feet smell.

When we entered, I doused the kids in hand sanitizer and had them go shopping for a paper plate, a set of chopsticks, a packaged Rice Krispie Treat and a Fruit Roll Up. Once they dropped that off at their seat, we met at a demo table for some quick directions. I reminded them of the tale of Yoko and how her mom prepared the sushi. I had found some packaged seaweed at the grocery and showed that to the kids. I wanted to emphasize that we were only making candy  sushi...that the process would be kinda similar but, well, not. And the taste would be completely different. I didn't want some kid begging to go out for sushi only to be disappointed it didn't taste like a fist full of sugar.
So the process goes a little like this: lay our your "seaweed" (aka Fruit Roll Up). Squish your "sticky rice" (that'd be your sticky Rice Krispie Treat) to make it about the same size as your seaweed. Place it on the seaweed and put some surprises inside. We opted for gummi worms and bears.
Roll it up and slice with your plastic knife.
Now, for my pre-K friends, I didn't have chopsticks so we used the Japanese snack Pocky. These didn't prove to work so well as they broke easily and melted in our hands. Not that the kids minded!

For those wee ones, they used their hands.
For my 1st graders, we had chopsticks and they loved them. However, they had no clue how to use them, even after a demo. Watching them attempt to operate them was kinda like watching a baby giraffe trying to walk on their new found legs -- hilariously awkward. They dropped more sushi than they put in their mouth. Which made me think: maybe I'll invest in some class chopsticks so the kids can practice some fine motor skills with them. They enjoyed using them (so much so that one boy picked up all the food wrappers with them) but definitely needed some practice. Have you all ever done fine motor activities like that in your art room?
By the way, I tried a bite of candy sushi...and all I can say is, I'll eat the real thing any day. SoOoo much sugar! Those kids were seriously vibrating when they left my art room!
But it was super fun and I'd totally do it again. In fact, I've got several 1st grade classes that have yet to have their party so I'm looking forward to more sushi-making-madness soon!

Have ya'll ever done an artsy food activity in your art room? I'm hoping to continue this tradition so I'd love to hear your ideas...icing cookie color wheel, anyone?

Off to get some sushi! Chat soon.

19 comments:

  1. Hey, is that book based on the tv show "Timothy goes to school"? There's a Japanese Yoko the cat in that too! http://www.amazon.com/Timothy-Goes-to-School-Yoko/dp/B00DU180VW

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    1. Probably! There's a Timothy in the book! I think he's a raccoon?

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  2. I use to do a color wheel activity with vanilla wafers. The first time I did it we used canned icing that I tinted
    with red, blue, and yellow food coloring. The kids mixed the secondary colors. So they had 6 vanilla wafers with icing on each one. TOO MUCH SUGAR! After that I used Cool Whip because it didn't have as much sugar. Much better!

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    1. I've wondered about that activity! Thank you, I've always wanted to try it...but the icing route seemed too expensive also. Good to know that Cool Whip works!

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  3. Pretty cool! The collages turned out great and I like the touches of origami paper. The candy sushi looked to be a hit and a great way for them to experience the sushi rolling technique. Probably stuck together easier than dealing with rice and nori-
    The paper from the gelli plate reminds me of paste paper-(paint thickened with cornstarch and applied to paper, then different tools are pulled through it)

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    1. Wow, I'm intrigued by the cornstarch paper deal. I'd love to hear more details...sounds like I'll be doing some googling! Thank you :)

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    2. I learned about it in the book Paper Art by Diane Maurer-Mathison. The recipe was 1/4 c cornstarch mixed well with water -then add another cup water and heat , stirring until thick and custard-like. Add another 1/2 cup to thin it down -let cool and rethicken before use. Paint added for color. It is applied to a damp paper with a brush and then various tools/objects can be pulled through it for designs.
      The book has many cool crafts- the other I like is the Japanese art of folding and dyeing paper (Orizomegami)

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  4. You're so lucky you can do things with food in your school. Because of allergies and a school nurse who is very judgmental about treats, we can't do any food during a regular class. And during holiday parties, it always has to be fruit and veg. No junk food or candy, ever! It's kind of depressing!

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    1. Man, that's a bummer! I understand the allergy thing but with holding all sweets seems a little ridiculous...and could quite possibly lead to food obsessions. Sounds too controlling to me! I'm guessing a fruit sushi could be made...you'd just have to get creative :)

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  5. Have you seen the trick with paper and a rubber band that makes normal chop sticks into a training pair? Maybe that'd help with the fine motor skills :) http://lifehacker.com/5616695/use-a-rubber-band-to-turn-disposable-chopsticks-into-a-training-set

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    1. I've not done that but I was given a pair like that (subtle hint, maybe?) I also have children's chopsticks...but not enough for all the kids. I'll have to try the rubberband trick for my next group of kids, thank you!!

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  6. Cassie these are so cool! I love the sushi collage and the painted paper. So many steps. I always wonder how you do it with Kindergarten and First graders. You asked about food in the classroom. Well, we keep it healthy too at our school. Our kids (most anyways) are fed complete junk at home, so we really try to instill good eating habits at school. Our school lunch does not help with this. BUT we have a school garden, a green team, yeah sugar snacks of any kind are a big no no. Plus with the behaviors and all the meds. . . adding sugar to the mix would make the teachers shun me I'm sure! I do have a bunch of mini water bottles though and give it to the 5th graders who clean up first and are waiting for the others. Lame, but it helps get them moving.

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    1. Mint water sounds divine! And a garden?! That's awesome! I think that sounds great!

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  7. These kids are so lucky to have you for a teacher. These classes look like so much fun! If I had one, I would totally send him/her to your school. I particularly love that you got them hyped up on sugar and then sent them to their next class.

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  8. Great site, valuable and very useful information,you has provided us for that I really thankful to you.

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  11. Lovely project! How did the gelli plates stand up to the kids? I've ordered one for playing around to see what kind of abuse it can take! LOL I did a lesson like this a while back, and we made sushi out of model magic and recycled cardboard trays from produce. Plus they got to give the food little kawaii faces! Check it out here: http://myadventuresinpositivespace.blogspot.com/2013/04/manga-club-final-projects.html

    Best,
    Renee Collins

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  12. Great project! What size Gelli plates do you have? They are so expensive!

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Thank you so much for your comments. I appreciate each and every one :)