A holiday history lesson

Thanksgiving inspires learning in children

It wasn't just about the fun associated with making construction-paper hats, singing songs, cooking and putting on plays.

Behind every Thanksgiving-related activity at any of Moffat County's elementary schools there was a lesson.

"We integrate it into our curriculum because we're in the day and age of accountability," Sunset Elementary School kindergarten teacher Michele Conroy said. "Everything we do has to support reading, writing and math. It does make reading fun, though. It does make math fun."

Students in her class read about pilgrims, discussed nutrition surrounding the traditional Thanksgiving meal and did "turkey math." They ate cranberry bread as they learned about cranberries.

Thanksgiving is an integral part of the school district's first- and second-grade curriculum, which requires at the first-grade level that a student be able to discuss the historical background of national holidays and identify family traditions. In second grade, students are expected to be able to describe the role Native Americans, early settlers and pioneers played in our country's history.

"The pilgrims came off a ship, and the Indians helped them," according to kindergartner Jeffrey Anderson's account of the historic event.

"They hunted for deer and turkey and prairie dogs and rabbits and prairie dogs and then they had a feast," Bridgett Thompson, 6, added.

The pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower, kindergartner Korten Hathhorn said, with their "clothing in treasures ... um, I mean chests."

The students performed several plays Tuesday to supplement their learning -- one "Greedy Korten," which is about a pilgrim who ate too much and got sick. It complemented lessons about nutrition.

Another performance showed what students were thankful for.

"I'm thankful for my family, because they love and care for me," Thompson said.

All elementary schools celebrated Thanksgiving in some form, some limited to classroom activities, others expanded to include parents.

The second-grade students at East Elementary School invited their parents (who also volunteered to bring the food) to a feast.

Once a student hits fifth grade, the times of wearing pilgrim hats and re-enacting the first feast are history.

At that level, the focus is more on contemporary U.S. history, though some classes offered reading or writing lessons about pilgrims and Indians.

"We talk about pilgrims and the Mayflower, but we don't do dinners or programs at this level," said Craig Intermediate School history teacher Kim Grant. "They're just old enough that it wouldn't be cool."

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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