Reliving history with a meal Thanksgiving: Fifth-graders at Freedom Elementary learn the history of Thanksgiving from a play and a traditional holiday feast prepared by their parents.

November 27, 1996|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The fifth-grade students at Freedom Elementary feasted like their Pilgrim and Native American forebears yesterday.

Their costumes were paper, and the cuisine was heated in crock pots, but the children easily created the conviviality of shared Thanksgiving meals.

The celebration began with "The Unthankful Pilgrim," a drama of a settler disheartened by harsh winters and the loss of family.

"But he became thankful when his friends reminded him of all he had," said Josh Lapps, who played the lead.

The story ended with a blissful banquet scene of women cooking and men playing games, but not before Ariel Canter reminded the audience of the role Native Americans played in the Pilgrim drama.

"Pilgrims were used to living in cities," Ariel said. "The Indians taught them how to grow food, hunt and fish. Without the Indians, the Pilgrims would have never made it through."

The fifth-graders, wrapping up a history unit on Native Americans, have discovered an appreciation for the culture.

"Indians were resourceful," said Alex Daniel. "They used everything and never wasted things."

And Gregory Fraser pointed out that "they didn't have to go to school."

Samantha Schneeman described how Native Americans killed buffalo for food and found uses for every part of the animal, "even the ribs, which they made into sleds," she said.

"But they had to hunt for hours to get food and sometimes came back with nothing," Samantha said.

Amber Gardner decided the Pilgrims' food procurement methods were too troublesome.

"We can just go the store, buy stuff and gobble it up," Amber said.

About 100 students ate as traditional a meal as their parents could put together. The menu included boiled corn and squash, cranberry relish, corn bread, pumpkin cookies and muffins, maple syrup and apple juice.

"I would have hated squash juice," said Robbi Garber.

"Pilgrims had apples, so they probably made juice," said T. J. Hawes.

In searching for authenticity, parents had an arduous chore.

"We had to be careful. Pilgrims did not have Jell-O," said Lisa Thompson.

Nor did they have paper plates, but that did not stop one mother from making a last-minute run to a nearby grocery store for a package.

In the serving lines, the mothers heard requests for seconds, mostly for corn, and many questions about missing meat.

Most of the children filled their plates with samples of all the foods served. One child refused to taste anything on his plate, making a smiling face of the elements of the meal instead.

The children dressed in white paper collars or brown paper vests, decorated with Native American symbols. The girls also tied white paper caps under their chins.

"The hats are ugly and keep falling off," said Amy Moore, whose cap hung down her back.

As children passed plates of food, many wondered what they were tasting.

Justin Rousey thought he was sampling banana bread until another diner reminded him that early settlers had no tropical fruit. Mike Litz identified chopped apples in his cranberry sauce and decided he prefers smooth cranberry sauce from a can.

"I am not sure what is in these cookies, but they are good," said Keith Locklear. A few bites later, he decided the predominant taste was pumpkin.

Pilgrim women might have provided better fare, said Abby Brigham. After all, she reasoned, they were used to cooking this unfamiliar stuff and deer meat.

Teacher Lorraine Thompson chose the activity to make her students aware of the nation's past. She concluded the program with a reading of President Clinton's Thanksgiving proclamation.

The president wrote that America's bounty helps feed the world and that we all share a bond with those who celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

Pub Date: 11/27/96

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