Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thanksgiving in kindergarten

Of all the holidays we celebrated in kindergarten, I think I enjoyed Thanksgiving the most. We spent weeks preparing for it. The following is a list of our activities:
We celebrated for two days. The first day we had an "Indian Feast". We studied about Indians for a number of days. One of the things that has always bothered me is when Thanksgiving Indians are portrayed as the plains Indians are portrayed as the plains Indians such as the Sioux with big feather headresses.
We had pictures of the East Coast Indians around the room and read stories about them. (Scholastic has some excellent books about Indians and pilgrim childen at Plymouth Plantation. I don't remember the title of all of them but one of them is called "Sarah Morton's Day".) We talked about their clothes and how they had to make everything instead of buying it at the store. We talked about how they had to dry their fruits and meat to preserve them for the winter.
I had a real tanned deerskin that I brought in for the children to see and touch. We made Indian vests out of brown paper sacks and paper mats to sit on since the Indians didn't have furniture. We talked about the Indians use of "picture writing" instead of ABC's and students wrote a "picture story" on their mats.
Since Indians couldn't go to the store, they had to use things they found in nature for everything. I brought examples of necklaces made from wood, dried corn, leather and bird feathers. We made died pasta necklaces. Different colors were used to reinforce patterning. (Rigatoni works well. (If rubbing alcohol and food coloring are used in a large plastic zip-lock bag to shake with the pasta, the colors are brighter. Also dipping one end of the yarn in paraffin wax or melted crayons about 3 or 4 in. makes it easier to string. When the wax cools it is stiff, almost like a needle.)
Students also made headbands to wear. They had to match the number of paper feathers they put on their headband to the number of letters in their name. I could never pass up the chance to reinforce 1-1 correspondence. On the day we had our Indian feast students ate popcorn, raisins (dried fruit), jerky (dried meat), and peanuts (nuts).
The next day (usually the day before Thanksgiving vacation) we had our Pilgrim Feast. We had spent days preparing for this too. We made paper hats, black stovepipe hats with a buckle for the boys and blue and white bonnets for the girls. We also made large white collars to wear.
Students made corn muffins ( a Jiffy brand corn muffin mix with a little added sugar since we would not be using jam or honey. I decided this would not be the time to teach the differences between the taste of our food now compared to culture in the 16oo's.
The day before, students had brought in a vegetable of their choice and we learned to cut them properly (using table knives of course). We all added them to the vegetable stew.
We made home made butter (see recipe at to put on our corn muffins. With our modern day adaptations they tasted kind of like cupcakes with whipped cream on top. I also had a mom bring in a pumpkin pie.
Parents and grandparents were invited to our feast as well. We showed off our accomplishments and sang Thanksgiving songs for them. We had a wonderful celebration with I hope some learning too.