Remembering the First Thanksgiving with Gratitude

Remembering the First Thanksgiving with Gratitude


Deidra Bowling-Meade

The Ashland Beacon


   The Peanuts character Charlie Brown gives us food for thought: “What if today, we were just grateful for everything?” We often take what we have for granted, such as our home, food, health, friends and family.  Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our many blessings.  Holy Family School’s kindergarten class taught by Brandi Cumpton has been learning about giving thanks, as well as experiencing the first Thanksgiving.  It’s been an experience the students will never forget.   

   Cumpton first reads a fiction book from the Magic Tree House series titled, Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne, to launch the unit.   The two main characters of the book, Jack and Annie, are whisked back to 1621 on the first Thanksgiving Day. The Pilgrims ask them to help get things ready. But whether it's cooking or clamming, Jack and Annie don't know how to do anything the Pilgrim way. Nonfiction texts, such as Giving Thanks: The 1621 Harvest Feast by Kate Waters and Pilgrims A Nonfiction Companion to Thanksgiving on Thursday by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce are also included to provide extension of understanding. These resources helped give an in-depth picture of what life was like for the early settlers.  The students were then given the opportunity to experience life as a Pilgrim as they prepared a Thanksgiving feast celebration. 

   Cumpton described the celebration, “We try to recreate the Pilgrim tradition and feast as best we can with adult supervision.  Students prepare and cook the food, serve one another, and clean afterwards.  The students sit on the floor to eat like the Pilgrim kids had to during that time.  They used seashells to eat their food.  Foods included items we know they had at the First Thanksgiving:  deer meat, potatoes, carrots, corn on the cob, nuts, berries and water.”  Kindergarten student, Mack Meade, smiled with excitement as he placed the deer meat in the pot to cook.  Meade exclaimed, “It was raw and bloody! It was cool to cook and try to eat it.  I ate five bites of a deer leg; it was good!”  

   The students also shucked corn, peeled potatoes, cut carrots and washed fruit.  Kindergartener Waylon Haywood commented, “I’m thankful I don’t have to work as hard as the Pilgrim kids!”  Cumpton enjoys watching the students work most of all because “it paints a better picture of how hard the pilgrim children worked and how much involvement they had with the daily responsibilities.”  The students learn to be grateful for their daily blessings.  

   Allison Salem said she was thankful for the feast food and her cousins.  Maria Peacock stated she was thankful for her family and house.  Callie Bowling shared, “I’m thankful for my toys because the Pilgrim kids didn’t have any on the boat.”   

   Cumpton has shared the Thanksgiving feast with her students for 10 years.  Several parents have discussed how valuable the experience is for their children.  Kristin Haywood is a 4th grade teacher at Holy Family and mother of Waylon Haywood.  Haywood teased, “I was dying to try some deer meat, but the boys ate it all!  It smelled delicious!”  Haywood continued, “I was happy to hear that the students in kindergarten were already learning about and getting to re-create some of the things they learned about all week leading up to the feast.  Waylon would tell me facts daily that he had learned about the First Thanksgiving.  He quickly realized it’s not as simple as it is at home.  He didn’t want to live like a pilgrim but definitely loved to cook and eat like one!”  

   Kelly Marcum, who teaches religion and also works with the kindergarten class, enjoys the Thanksgiving feast the most.  Marcum proclaimed, “It’s my favorite event of the year!  I learn something new every year.”  The hands-on experience for the students puts everything into perspective and is a bonding experience they will always remember with gratitude.

Related Articles