It came in the mail last March – a postcard from the Korea Society, inviting Sandra Makielski to apply for a two-week educators trip to South Korea.
“I looked at the postcard and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll try,’” said the seventh grade social studies teacher from Davisville Middle School.
Out of around 400 applicants, Makielski, of Wakefield, was one of 39 teachers from around the country who were selected to go.
“I’d never been to East Asia before so it was very exciting,” she said earlier this month. “It was very different than the U.S.”
The group spent one week in Seoul and one week traveling. For Makielski, social studies teacher through and through, it was fascinating to learn more about Korean history. Most Americans, she said, know only a little about Korea, specifically, the events of the past 60 years or so.
“Now I have a much better understanding of Korea’s 5,000-year history – their culture, their art and, of course, their food,” she said.
Not surprisingly, rice is a big part of every meal, but in Korea it came with anywhere from four to twelve toppings, Makielski said. Another staple – seafood soup, which was served usually three times a day. In addition there was Kimchi and other fermented vegetables.
But it was perhaps the culture that made the strongest impression on Makielski – specifically, KPop music. As in, PSY and Gangnam Style. But that, she learned, was just the tip of the iceberg. Korean pop music is HUGE all over the world.
“I’ve been listening to a lot of KPop since I got home,” she said. What’s more, Makieski’s decided to use KPop and other popular music from around the world in her classroom. She's thinking about making Mondays "Music Mondays."
She also learned about hanji, Korean paper making. "I plan to do that with my students," she said.
“This is my first time going out on an international teacher workshop experience, but it won’t be my last time,” Makieski said. “Now I have this network of 38 other teachers and we are staying in touch and sharing different things. The learning is still happening. That’s really exciting for me.”