Happy Thanksgiving!

by SarahRook

So I wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, but I also wanted to talk a little bit about holidays and how I find myself teaching them.

The school I’m at also functions as a daycare:  that being known, we do not get many days off, ever.  Six days a year, it looks like. So for most holidays, I’m still at school.  It gives me an interesting opportunity to talk about them in my class.

Columbus day, I was in school.  We looked at a map, did a little drama with people taking the positions of Queen Isabella, Columbus, and his crews, recited the little rhyme, and went on with our day.  No special celebration, no intense discussions about what Columbus’s motivations were or the socio-economic-political repercussions of his journey.  We skimmed the surface:  this, that, and the other thing happened.

(In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He sailed the sea with ships of three, the Pinta, the Nina, and the Santa Marie.)

On Voting Day, we actually got to talk to the people running the voting booth in our center and the kids all got to peek behind the curtain at the voting booth.  What it looked like, what it did, how it worked.  I had asked permission – and warned – the people working at the polling place if we could/that we might stop by, and they had been amenable.  I don’t think they were expecting the number of questions that my kids brought up or the depth of thought they put into them, though.  They wanted to know what to do if you made a mistake, and what the different buttons did, and how to turn the machines back on once someone voted – and I watched the face of our guide go from polite to amused to intrigued.  I love getting to see people interact with my kids, especially when they come away from the encounter impressed with their mental acuity.

I had an interesting look into the ideas behind Bruner’s spiral curriculum when we talked about Thanksgiving.  I found myself conflating Columbus’ journey and the Pilgrims into ‘people who came to America.’  The kids remembered that Columbus sailed with three ships, and they could actually give us some decent reasons for sailing across a huge ocean. (Money, jewels, and gold all popped up in discussion, and were all things that the early settlers kind of expected to find lying around on the ground.)  So yay, for bright kids – or kids who’ve been exposed to Disney’s Pocohantos, and took something from the bad guy.  See here:  

As we came around to a discussion of social studies once again, the kids brought up their thoughts.  We talked about what would happen in a ship over a long, long time.  How the food would go bad, how the space would become gross and the people would get ill.

And through many pointed questions, we got to the idea of what people on such a journey would want more than anything else when they finally saw land.  Food.  Even strange, “I’ve never seen this before and it looks odd” food.

And that led us into our introduction of the Indians, Squanto in particular, and the turkeys running wild, and the corn and beans and squash that were native to this New World.

It held their attention for longer than I hoped, and I think they were able to take something away from it.  Thanksgiving moved from being a word for a holiday into giving thanks for people who helped.  In that, I was pleased with how the lesson went.

So we made our hats, and ate our pre-Thanksgiving lunch, and we went our separate ways for the long weekend.  I am thankful for my kids, for my job, for their enthusiasm – and for getting to spend a little time away from them for the first time in months, and spend it instead with my family.

Happy Thanksgiving!  Enjoy your turkey, if you are so inclined 🙂


One Comment to “Happy Thanksgiving!”

  1. I know this isn’t appropriate for little kids, but I thought some of you might be interested in this link about teaching about Thanksgiving, provided via Facebook from another Swarthmore alum (Chela Delgado) who teaches in California: http://www.oyate.org/resources/longthanks.html

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