Getting a Taste for History : Holiday: Students play Pilgrims and Native Americans as they re-enact the first Thanksgiving--complete with playground feast.


When the Pilgrims landed at Gilbert Elementary School on Wednesday and the Native Americans turned out to greet them, the characters were considerably younger than the original cast, and Plymouth Rock had the unmistakable look and feel of construction paper.

But the scene was real enough to be a good history lesson for students at the Garden Grove school.

“It’s a nice way to celebrate Thanksgiving,” said Kelli Price, whose son Colin, a kindergartner, portrayed one of the Native Americans. The re-enactment was a memorable way for children to learn about the origin of Thanksgiving, she said.

Using craft paper, the youngsters made a 30-foot replica of the Mayflower, complete with painted waves lapping at its sides. Third-grade Pilgrims “sailed” the two-dimensional vessel from one school courtyard to another, then “disembarked” for a feast of popped corn, bread and fruit.


“A big part of education is making it real,” said Sheila Arnold, a language instructor. “By acting it out, they relate better to the holiday.”

The school incorporated other lessons in the weeklong preparation for the event. To earn colored feathers for Indian costumes, young students had to give recitations: the alphabet, their home addresses, phone numbers.

Their final lesson came when the students sat down on the playground to eat the meal they had helped prepare.

“We don’t throw food,” teacher Arnold chided two students who were thinking otherwise.