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Feasting on history

Costumes and foodstuffs hold Thanksgiving lessons for Ridgeway students
Monday, November 21, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 8:58 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When first-graders at Ridgeway Elementary School made grocery-bag vests last week for their Thanksgiving feast, they hoped they could wear them out to play that day.

But no, the fringed and brightly decorated costumes were being saved for the feast today, when they will also don headbands to represent American Indians in the story of the first Thanksgiving.

The kindergartners who are scheduled to join them plan to wear homemade bonnets and pointed hats to represent the pilgrims.

A history lesson accompanied the creation of the first-graders’ vests. Teacher Susie Alberts showed students pictures and read about the first Thanksgiving.

“What is this?” Alberts asked, pointing to an illustration in a book she was reading aloud.

“A log house,” shouted several of the students.

Alberts passed out a “symbol sheet” for ideas on vest decoration. Using symbols from the sheet to tell a story, she told the students: choose symbols that you like or create your own.

Chelsea Deeters drew a large American flag on one side of her vest adjacent to a scene of two people chasing a chicken.

Isabelle Burks decorated hers with symbols of her hobbies and things she likes. The back of it read “Cowgirls are my favorite.” On the front, she drew an American Indian girl dancing with a pair of dancing shoes.

In preparation for gift exchanges, a big easel at the front of Alberts’ room was covered in strands of twine decorated with colorful beads. Each student made a beaded necklace to give to a pilgrim friend at the feast.

Asked whether they get to wear feathered headbands in addition to their vests, Alberts explained to her students the differences among tribes.

“Feathers must be earned,” she said. She then explained that receiving a feather in some tribal traditions is an honor. Feathers are rewards for kind or brave deeds, Alberts said.

The students were excited about debuting their costumes, but also about eating pumpkin pie and turkey.

“Bad thing is, no seconds,” said Jack Kelly-Marcum. Jack said his favorite Thanksgiving food is a strawberry-marshmallow dessert, which he ate for the first time at last year’s feast.

A similar Thanksgiving celebration took place at Columbia Independent School last week. CIS held its fourth annual Thanksgiving feast with kindergartners and their third-grade “buddies.”

Kindergartners wore feathered headbands and dyed macaroni wampum, as well as a paper-plate shield bearing the new names they gave themselves. The names symbolized something the students were good at or interested in.

Teacher Sharon Bailey said the best part about the feast was the incredible parent participation and generosity.

“There were just as many parents there as students,” Bailey said. “I felt like I was at my grandma’s for Thanksgiving.”


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