Imagine the surprise when a parent stood up at a recent school boardmeeting to complain that her fifth-grader was being taught that the Pilgrims were greedy fortune hunters.
Board members appeared dumbfounded.
Board member Joseph D. Mish Jr., a former teacher, told the mother to talk to the school principal about the situation. Teachers, he said, should be delivering a balanced picture of history.
Educators, however, said it was unlikely the child was receiving a warped interpretation of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. The child had probably confused lessons about the Pilgrims with those about explorers, such as Christopher Columbus, who have been depicted in a new light in recent years.
From kindergarten through high school, Carroll students are taught the traditional story of Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims. Thanksgiving is typically the theme for November at most elementary schools.
And in many classrooms, the focus is on thankfulness.
"Inkindergarten, teachers talk about the things kids can be thankful for in their own homes -- food, clothing, parents who take care of them," said Dorothy D. Mangle, director of elementary schools.
Schoolshave planned a variety of Thanksgiving-related activities that culminate today. Thanksgiving feasts are planned at William Winchester, Winfield and Westminster elementaries. First-graders at Winfield plan to dress up as Pilgrims and Indians and help prepare the feast.
Kindergarten teachers at Westminster Elementary School celebrate the holiday extensively with activities for the school's six sessions of morning and afternoon kindergarten students.
"We try and talk a lot about the sharing in our classes," said teacher Janet McDowell. "We talk about the fact that sharing benefited both the Indians and the Pilgrims. We talk about how each learned from the other, and we relate how we do that today in our own classroom."
Students, she said, have spent much of the month making Indian and Pilgrim costumes -- Indian headbands and necklaces made out of died macaroni, and Pilgrim collars and hats -- and listening to songs about the first Thanksgiving and doing finger plays.
In addition, students have woven place mats, made little drums, learned sign language and written their own stories, using pictures to show what they're thankful for, she said.
The classes of McDowell, Darlene Marceron and Anne Kyker play games similar to the ones Indians and Pilgrims enjoyed, such as leap frog.
"It's really fun, and they love it," McDowell said. "This is a busy time for them."
In Linda Tretheway's third-grade classroom at Manchester Elementary School, teacher and students talk about the similarities between themselves and the Pilgrims.
"We read some stories about Pilgrims," she said. "I have them write their own Pilgrim stories -- things that they see as being interesting, such as traveling to a new country."
Gloria Gall's fifth-grade language arts class deviated from the Thanksgiving theme this year by focusing on an aspect of fall -- apples.
"We did reading and language work with apples," said Gall, who teaches at the Taneytown Annex. "We wrote creative stories about apples. We read stories about apples."