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Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

The Student News Site of Shorewood High School

Shorewood Ripples

New club educates about Chinese culture

courtesy on Instagram
Chinese Club meets during lunch every Thursday in Mr. Gietzen’s Room

This school year, SHS welcomed Chinese Club as a new addition to its roster of clubs. Founded by senior Joanna Townsend, the club works to immerse students in Chinese culture.

“I am the student runner of this club, and then my mom, Mrs. Townsend; Mr. Gietzen and Ms. Lee are also helping with it,” said Townsend. “I wanted to start Chinese Club because I have a lot of friends who have Chinese heritage like me, but they don’t know or aren’t as connected with their culture as they want to be.”

Part of Townsend’s motivation in starting the club was to share her firsthand knowledge of Chinese culture. 

“I do have a connection to my culture and I speak the language and I am immersed in it every day,” Townsend said. “I thought it would be cool to share it with people who want to learn more about Chinese culture or just be connected with that part of their heritage.”

Townsend encourages new members to join regardless of their own cultural background, as the club is also a unique educational opportunity,

“There are a lot of people that actually joined this club that don’t have Chinese heritage, but they’re interested in learning about the culture and have an open mind to new foods and new traditions,” Townsend said. “I personally love learning about new cultures, so it’s really cool for people to join and see what life is like outside of what they’re used to.”

Eric Gietzen, one of the teacher advisors for the club, believes that understanding Chinese culture can be of great benefit to students. 

“Right now, Chinese culture and language is something that everyone can benefit from… understanding the culture, understanding the language, if only to create some context around a lot of the geopolitical things that are happening as China emerges as a world superpower,” Gietzen said.

Since learning about Chinese culture is a primary goal of the club, basic language skills are taught as part of meetings. The club offers a fun way for students to learn a handful of Chinese words and phrases. 

“My mom helps me with it because I am illiterate and can’t read or write, but we learn basic pronunciation and basic introductory phrases,” Townsend said. “I want to make sure that people have basic communication skills, like ordering their own food or greeting each other. Chinese is a really difficult language so it’s hard to learn in one year and meeting only once a week. [The goal is] just to have basic conversation and to have fun.”

Right now, Chinese culture and language is something that everyone can benefit from.”

— Eric Gietzen, Chinese Club Advisor

According to Gietzen, there is a wide range of Chinese language proficiency in the club.

“We have this awesome range,” Gietzen said. “We’ve got kids from Mainland China, we’ve got people from Hong Kong, people from Taiwan, people who were born here in the United States but whose families are culturally Chinese, and kids in the club who can hear Chinese and understand it but can’t really speak it.” 

On November 9, Chinese Club held a meeting in Gietzen’s classroom where students were met with an assortment of tea.

“We bring in a lot of food so members can try it,” Townsend said. “We [did] a tea ceremony this week which is a traditional Taiwanese ceremony with specific ways to prepare the tea.”

At the ceremony, members tasted oolong, jasmine, smoked, and chamomile tea. Additionally, members learned how to order tea in Chinese, a skill that will be put to use on the field trips Chinese club hopes to host.

“We have some field trips planned for immersion into culture,” Townsend said. “We have a restaurant field trip coming up in December, and we plan on going to Chinatown in Chicago in the spring.”

The nearest field trip is on December 5, to a restaurant called Sze Chuan. 

“Maybe you’ve heard of Sichuan food. The name of that state or province in mainland China is Four Rivers,” Gietzen said. We’re going to go there and we’re going to order food in Chinese, we’ll talk a little bit about food culture in China, past present and future, and then visit a Chinese grocery store.”

As of now, the trip to Chicago is planned to include both a visit to the Art Institute and lunch in Chinatown. 

“This trip to West Allis is just a warm up for the Spring trip to Chicago,” Gietzen said. “The plan is to take the train down to Chicago, go to the Art Institute in the morning, hop on the L, go to Chinatown for lunch, and then come home.”