One Day in Flushing, the New Chinatown

  • Learning
Ting Wang, Middle Grades Chinese Teacher

Last spring our 7th and 8th grade Chinese classes went on a field trip to Flushing, Queens, which is one of the largest and fastest growing Chinese communities outside of Asia. Our students spent one whole day in this new Chinatown, where the streets are bustling and lined with bright, colorful signs—very few of which contain any English. Throughout our time there, we explored Chinese culture and food as we practiced our target language.

Taking the 7 train to Flushing, Queens

Taking the 7 train to Flushing, Queens

On this field trip day, our students first traveled to a restaurant called Asian Jewels to dine on dim sum, a Cantonese style of food that literally means “from the heart.” Dim sum consists of small portions of food, ranging from dumplings to chicken feet, that are usually served in bamboo steamer baskets or on small plates—similar to the concept of Spanish tapas. In China, people say they are going to “drink tea,” or yum cha, when they are going to eat dim sum. This refers to the history of dim sum, which originated when laborers needed a bit of sustenance while drinking their afternoon tea.

Students were excited at the opportunity to try dim sum in Flushing

Students were excited at the opportunity to try dim sum in Flushing

Dim sum is usually served for breakfast or lunch at banquet hall–style restaurants that are filled with large, round tables to accommodate groups of friends and family. Our Chinese class students surrounded four tables and shared in a feast of small plates that spun on a turntable, allowing each person to pluck a piece of dim sum from the bamboo steamers using their chopsticks. Some of our students had their first bite of chicken feet and, surprisingly, they really liked it. Besides enjoying the food, our students also practiced proper dim sum etiquette, such as tapping your index and middle finger on the table twice to show your appreciation when someone serves you tea and turning over the lid and leaving it on the teapot if you want a refill.

Everyone digs in to their dim sum

Everyone digs in to their dim sum

Trying chicken feet for the first time!

Trying chicken feet for the first time!

After the dim sum, our students went to the New World Mall to have a scavenger hunt in the supermarket and food court. This activity required students to recall information they learned in class and apply it to decisions they were making in the real world.

Finding items for the scavenger hunt

Finding items for the scavenger hunt

To wrap up our field trip day, each student bought his or her own favorite traditional Chinese snacks from the Chinese supermarket, ranging from rice crackers to creamy candy. Everyone enjoyed spending the day immersing themselves in Chinese language and culture!

  • 7th Grade
  • 8th Grade
  • Language
  • Mandarin Chinese
  • Middle Grades Program