Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Did the Pilgrims eat spaghetti?

As a second grade teacher, it is a part of my job to teach 7-8 year olds to "tell/explain why important events, people, and/or customs are marked by holidays." In short, why do we celebrate Thanksgiving? In my preparation for this, I found multiple teacher websites with the obligatory hand turkey projects. As much as I love the hand turkey projects (and, yes, my students did trace their hands and write 5 things they were grateful for on the fingers, because teaching gratitude is always an important lesson), I wanted something different. In the early '90s, the Thanksgiving story I "learned" about (read: colored worksheets) was the Pilgrims in their bonnets and Indians in their feathers get together for a jolly feast in the New World. This is mostly fictional. I wanted to teach my students the standard, not fill their sweet brains with yet another lie. We discussed the Mayflower Voyage, the differences and similarities between the Pilgrim and Wampanoag lifestyles, and what the "First" Thanksgiving really was all about. The key points:
  • The "First" Thanksgiving was one of very many celebrations centered around gratitude in both the Pilgrim and Wampanoag faiths
  • The Wampanoag really saved the Pilgrims' assess that first winter
  • The Pilgrims really had no idea what to expect but perservered in spite of it all
  • At the time of the 1620 Thanksgiving feast, the Wampanoag and the Pilgrim colony were at a fragile sort of peace.
This evening, I read Blood on the River by Elisa Carbone. I purchased this book for my classroom library when I taught 5th grade. I've been meaning to read it, but, you know...
So, tonight, I read it all at once. On a scale of 1 to 5 (the more the better), this book receives 5 Penrod Points! I recommend this book to children because it is a first person narrative based on historical accounts of the journey to James Town in 1607, 13 years before the First Thanksgiving, and life in the English colonies thereafter until 1622. I recommend this book to adults because no matter how big your colony is, there will always be conflict. Love vs. fear, group vs. self.
" You must obey this now for a law that he that will not work shall not eat, except by sickness he be disabled. For the labors of thirty or forty honest and industrious men shall not be consumed to maintain an hundred and fifty idle loiterers."
- Captain John Smith, quoted in William Symonds, ed, The Proceedings

1 comment:

  1. Madison came home from school today and told me she learned about pilgrims. I said,
    "Who are pilgrims, Madison?",
    to which she replied,
    "People who lived a long time ago".
    "Yes, but what did they do? Why did you learn about them?" I asked.
    She brought me a booklet she colored in class, waving dismissively over it saying, "See? Those are pilgrims".
    "Oh," I said, "what does it mean to 'practice religious freedom'?"
    "You know, to be free and stuff..." said my 6-year-old.
    So, we talked about religion and England and why pilgrims came to America. When I told her that the Native Americans showed the pilgrims to bury fish to help their crops and she corrected me, calling them Indians, I chose not to go there. Yet.
    Yesterday I explained that Abraham Lincoln didn't just give a lot of speeches and stuff. I explained the telegraph, the Emancipation Proclamation and the true meaning behind Nevada Day.
    I didn't get a hand turkey though, dammit. I thought those were obligatory.
    The colored worksheets with pilgrims and Indians holding hands were nice though. Explained the meaning of Thanksgiving perfectly.
    You're one of the few great ones, Ms. Penrod.