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Students Have Fun Feasting, Sharing Thanks
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In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, a number of Oakdale teachers held special activities in their classrooms for students to learn more about the traditions of Thanksgiving and practice their math, speaking, and writing skills, all while making the activities fun.

Fair Oaks Elementary School Special Day Class (SDC) teacher Letha McLaurin held an annual Thanksgiving feast for her students at school on Nov. 24. The students brought items from home and prepared them at school. Parent volunteers and paraprofessional Sandie Lourenco helped the students with the various aspects of the meal, as each of the 11 fourth through sixth graders helped with measurements, which also helped them practice their math, as well as mixing, pouring, stirring, and more.

“Some kids don’t have a traditional family feast, so we try to make it so their school family has a feast,” McLaurin said.

Students recited a story for visitors and told each other what they were thankful for. Some of their replies varied from, “I’m thankful for TVs, video games, and cars” to “I’m thankful for this meal.”

“I’m thankful for my family and friends,” Kourtnee Jones said.

Jason Cupit said his favorite thing about Thanksgiving was “giving thanks to people.” He later added that he was also thankful for having a house and having food.

“I believe they enjoy the mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie the most,” McLaurin noted. “Overall, they enjoy the preparation and anticipation of feasting together.”

Prior to the feast, McLaurin’s students studied the origin of Thanksgiving and made packets of information to share with their families. There were stories about the first Thanksgiving, how people came and settled in the new land, and how they learned from and shared with the natives. They made Pilgrim and Native American headwear to wear during their meal. McLaurin added that they also talked about family traditions. She shared that most of her family are educators and administrators, and she’s carrying on the tradition. The students also wrote letters about what they’re thankful for to the special people in their life.

“They take pride in it and it’s something they love to do,” McLaurin said.

Her class was visited by her daughter, Lyndsay and friend Gaizka Mentxaka. Both live in Spain and do humanitarian work with Unicef and Amnesty International, having traveled to several countries for their jobs. They talked about different international traditions with the students, as Thanksgiving is a North American tradition.

Cloverland teacher Shelley Cuenca’s second graders baked pumpkin pies, an annual tradition that began four years ago. The students take part in the fun hands-on learning experience thanks to a team of helpers.

“They learn about reading recipes, following directions, measuring, and teamwork,” Cuenca said. “If it weren’t for the help of the cafeteria staff, the parent volunteers, and the generous donations by Cloverland staff members, parents and community members, this activity wouldn’t be taking place each year. And it has certainly grown over the years. The first year, we baked 58 pies, and we thought that was a lot. This year, we baked 96 pies.”

Cuenca’s class shared the pies with the cafeteria and office staff members, other Cloverland staff members, as well as the families who contributed their time and effort. The second graders also enjoyed the pie after their feast of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, and cornbread.

Students in a few sixth grade classes had fun meeting state standards by “talking turkey” with an annual turkey pageant. Sierra View teacher Amanda Yussman and Magnolia teacher Shelley Rien had their sixth grade students write a paper about turkeys and make their own for the annual Royal Turkey Pageant. The fun project meets writing standards for students to write clear, coherent, and focused essays and helps them with public speaking skills as well.

First graders in Christy Jackson’s class at Sierra View helped prepare food for a classroom feast and also made butter and fun crafts. The students made placemats for the feast and festive Pilgrim, Indian and turkey hats as well.

Diane Noon’s kindergarten class at Sierra View made “stone soup,” based on the children’s story, cornbread and butter to celebrate their Thanksgiving feast.

There were many more classes that recognized the holiday and incorporated special lessons and activities into their days.