Cayden Brand, 8, dropped cranberries and orange slices into a hand-cranked grinder as Isabelle Miller, 4, scraped off the excess with a wooden spoon that was almost as large as her head.
In another classroom, 6-year-old Jessica Lu helped make cornbread by mixing milk, eggs and corn meal into a mixing bowl that an adult promptly poured into a tin pan ready for baking.
Every student at ABC-Stewart School and many of their parents combined efforts Monday before and during the school’s 44th annual Thanksgiving Feast, an event intended to teach real-life skills and cooperation while emphasizing the importance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
While parents and teachers supervised, students of every age level did the work. With the preparation completed, all 220 students gathered in the cafeteria for a meal of turkey, cranberry relish, fruit salad, vegetables, potatoes, scalloped corn, fruit kabobs, dressing, candied yams, cornbread and pumpkin pie.
“It’s our favorite day of the year,” said Tara Roeder, mother of Cate, a first-grader, and Jake, a preschooler.
Mary Carmichael, guest of honor at the feast, started the tradition when she founded ABC-Stewart 44 years ago. Although Carmichael has retired, the tradition has lived on as a part of the curriculum, with parents donating the food and drinks.
ABC Principal Mike Gorday said ABC students were divided into groups so older and younger students could work together, a concept true to the Montessori teaching model. The mentoring partnership taught younger students tasks such as using a can opener or dicing carrots.
ABC-Stewart’s ethnic diversity is a bonus for students from outside the United States, as they get to experience a valuable piece of American culture involving tradition and cooking, Gorday said.
Siddhu Satish, 4, rinsed some peeled carrots under tap water as his mother, Bamasai Satish, told him how to do it properly.
“It shows them things that they’ve never done before,” Bamasai Satish said.
Students also experienced the equally valuable lesson of cleanup.
In the cafeteria kitchen, students cleaned all the bowls, pans and utensils that filtered in from the various classrooms, where students were working on meal items.
Third-grader Zachary Wager and fourth-grader Taylen Lane, scraping leftover pumpkin filling from their bowls, were enjoying their work, experiencing togetherness and thankfulness.
Hsieu-Chin Lin used a fork to remove egg shells from a measuring cup as she worked with her son, Ryan Wang, and Anushka Damle, who are both preschoolers. She said she enjoyed the experience and thought the kids were
Mary Arnholt, a preschool teacher, and various parents presided over a group of children who prepared scalloped corn, a creamy casserole that requires the careful measuring of ingredients.
Arnholt said mistakes were made, such as when one student accidentally put in twice as much of an ingredient as he needed.
The experience gave his adult supervisor an opportunity to conduct a teaching moment, showing the child how to correct his mistake by doubling other ingredients in the recipe.
Surekha DiOrio, a student at the school when it opened 44 years ago, said the annual Thanksgiving Feast is a great experience for her own children who attend the school today.
“It teaches them about responsibility, food prep, motor skills and hygiene,” she said.