Five years ago, Voula Los started teaching her students about Thanksgiving in a special way.
Instead of a typical lesson plan, the Covert Avenue Elementary School teacher decided a hands-on activity would be a better approach.
Now, every year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, her students re-enact the voyage the pilgrims made to America.
“It’s just a great way for them to learn,” said Los, who teaches both kindergarten and first grade. “It’s like a field trip for these kids, they really enjoy it.”
Los and Cynthia Douglas co-teach a first-grade class at Covert. And on Wednesday morning, they dressed every boy in the class with a pilgrim hat and white collar made out of construction paper and every girl with a white bonnet.
Los, Douglas and their entire first-grade class then set sail in a cardboard version of the Mayflower down the hallway to Samantha Magaraci’s kindergarten class, which was dubbed “America” for the day. They arrived to find the kindergartners wearing feather headbands and white American Indian dresses they decorated themselves.
“Instead of learning about Thanksgiving through books and history, it gives them the hands-on approach to actually experience what the pilgrims and the Native Americans did long ago,” said Douglas, of Wantagh.
Once both classes were together in Magaraci’s room, they sat down for a feast, just as the pilgrims and American Indians did in Plymouth, Mass. in 1620. Tables were set up with a placeholder for each student, alternating pilgrims and American Indians. Teachers walked around serving turkey, cranberry sauce, corn, sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese.
The leftover food was to be donated to families affected by superstorm Sandy.
“They [the kindergartners] look forward then to next year being the pilgrim coming back,” said Magaraci, of Rockville Centre. “It’s a nice part of the curriculum, it ties everything together since we’ve been doing Thanksgiving things for the past few weeks now.”
Both classes plan on continuing this annual tradition giving students something to look forward to every year. Los, also a special-education teacher, knows exactly what it takes to get students involved and interested and has additional plans for the future.
“I know these kids are more visual, more kinesthetic. I like to teach in so many different ways and this came as an idea that just became huge because the kids loved it.” said Los. “I kept adding on to it and next year we’re even thinking of adding a skit. We keep thinking of new ideas every year.”
Above: Adwaiy Ajith Kumar, 6, a first-grade student at Covert Elementary School in Elmont, enjoys the Thanksgiving feast during their re-enactment of the pilgrims' voyage on the Mayflower to Plymouth, Mass. in 1620. (Nov. 21, 2012)