Fourth-grade students at Lakeview Academy recently learned that cooking the first Thanksgiving wasn’t quite as simple as it can be today.
“We had this feast where we cooked our own food,” said Cameron Hewatt, 9. “We peeled potatoes and cut stuff, like carrots. It was really fun.”
But these students didn’t just cook their own food; it was all done over open fire, much like it would have been hundreds of years ago.
The idea originated with teachers Sharon Briggs and Lori Roberts 14 years ago, when they were trying to incorporate a more hands-on way of learning with lesson plans on how colonists lived. It’s turned into an annual tradition at the school, with an entire day fully devoted to immersing students in the Colonial way of life.
“We study the original 13 colonies, so the day kind of comes into play with that,” Roberts said. “We start in the morning preparing the food. Then we do activities in the classroom that go along with that type of life.”
For example, students churn their own butter, which they’ll use later on top of their rolls. They also practice knitting, and make their own clothespin dolls like Colonial children would have had.
The biggest portion of the day, though, was spent over the fire as the student-prepared turkey stew. The students even gathered the kindling, while teachers and parent volunteers tended to the flames.
“We had this big pot and we put it beside the fire, and the fire cooked it,” Cameron said.
Maggie Abboud, 10, said it was very similar to how life was like for the colonists.
“I liked talking about how back then they didn’t have sewing machines to make their own clothes,” she said. “They had to actually do it by hand. They didn’t have Belk.”
Briggs said it’s difficult for students to grasp how different life was for the colonists, but this hands-on lesson drives the point home.
“We talk about how it was different without electricity,” Briggs said. “How the answers have changed over 14 years! Now, they’ll say (there would be) no cellphones. They just can’t fathom what life was like.”
Both Maggie and Cameron said their favorite part was
using the fire to make s’mores, which isn’t necessarily an authentic Colonial tradition.
But they all agreed the best part of the day was giving thanks.
“We all get around the fire and we hold hands and we all share something that we’re thankful for,” Briggs said. “So the thrust is, basically, how lucky we are in America to have that opportunity.”