Student Researchers Collaborate on Original Picture Books

Students recently wrapped up research projects on a mouth-watering variety of Spanish American dishes, from Chilean chochoca to Cuban ropa vieja, in Dr. Laura Kanost’s Food in Spanish American History and Culture class (SPAN 566). In addition to reading academic studies, the student researchers also learned about the dishes from the people who cook them (while developing their listening skills) via YouTube videos. Dr. Kanost designed this multi-phase project as a small group activity in order to foster connections in the class, which is 100% online this semester. 

Students’ research included watching cooking videos like this one on chochoca

Each group had the option to communicate the results of their research in the form of a cooking show, a children’s picture book, or a conventional slide presentation. No matter which format they chose, students combined visuals and language to describe their dish, explain how it is prepared, narrate how it developed, and discuss its cultural significance. 

The students who selected the picture book option embraced the additional creative challenge of conveying this information through an original story that would appeal to children. Adapting the way a message is communicated to best reach a specific audience is a crucial skill developed in many world language classes at K-State. Picture books also provide an opportunity to practice using dialogue, informal language, and a variety of rhetorical devices. 

cover of picture book, Empanadas de Nicolás
Empanadas de Nicolás por Isabella Nelson y Berenice Rivera Hernández

Alice Miller and Lucy Fischer wrote a picture book about the Afro-Colombian dish, black-eyed pea fritters. “It was an opportunity to try something new and creative.  Pictures and stories are a great way to communicate ideas, especially in a language that I am still learning,” Alice explained. 

After drafting and revising their stories, the students used the free platform Canva to design their books. 

Buñuelos de frijol de cabecita negra: Una comida afro-caribeña de Colombia por Lucy Fischer y Alice Miller

Through the collaboration process, Alice and Lucy developed a new friendship. “With busy schedules and online classes, it’s hard to make friends and find social connections,” Alice observed. “I feel very fortunate to have been paired with a person with like-minded goals and complementary strengths and talents.” Lucy agreed. “Food brings people together, in more ways than you’d expect.”

“Hungry” for more picture books about food and culture? Dr. Kanost recommends the bilingual Cooking Poems/ Poemas para cocinar series by Jorge Argueta


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