“C’mon! Shake faster!” squealed the students in Jeanette Gregg’s kindergarten class at Arnold Memorial Elementary. “Shake! Shake! Shake!”
Four groups sat cross-legged on the multicolored carpet at the front of the classroom. Clasped in one member’s hands from each group rested a glass jar. In the jar was milk.
The children were trying desperately to make butter.
“OK, switch,” Gregg instructed as she walked between the groups. “Pass the butter to your right.”
Tiny faces scrunched up. Hands held tight to the jars with arms moving erratically in an effort to disrupt the white liquid. Group members stared at the jars as they yelled encouraging words: “You can do it! Keep shaking.”
Finally, the deed was done. A group of three managed to pump their milk so hard it became creamy butter for the whole class to enjoy. The students gleefully ate it with their bread.
Gregg explained the bread and butter were a part of the Thanksgiving lessons for the week. She wanted her students to get an idea of how life was different for the Pilgrims. Instead of having ready-made butter, the Pilgrims had to churn theirs. In addition, students had an opportunity to knead their own bread.
They proclaimed both to be delicious.
Gregg was not the only one to capitalize on the Thanksgiving lessons. Teachers across the city designed lesson plans to highlight the holiday. They utilized the children’s natural excitement in history lessons.
Amanda Matson’s class went on a virtual field trip of Plimoth Plantation.
“We did it last year and the kids loved it. They think it is so neat,” Matson said. “Because you build it up so much, they think they are actually going.”
Fifteen little faces stared up at the white projector board in Matson’s class. On the screen were actors dressed up as Pilgrims and Native Americans. Children watched entranced as the Pilgrims greeted them.
“Hello,” chorused back the students.
The Pilgrims “invited” the students into their homes as they talked about the difficulties they faced upon arriving in Plymouth.
A letter from the time revealed many of those who landed died a short time later.
“I cannot think how lost I would be in this strange and frightful place without mother and father,” continued the actress. “I pray they will not succumb to starving or other diseases.”
Other Pilgrims showed the students their gardens, their structures and the way they set the table for dinner.
James Beddingfield repeated some of his newfound knowledge: “Beds were made out of feathers, straw and wood.”
Mini-feasts and like-minded lessons were held throughout the school system leading up to Thanksgiving break.
Added Matson, “Any time the kids can get involved this way, it just makes the experience that much better.”