Thanksgiving at The Sullivans Offers Non-Traditional Learning

Story and photo

(Left) Ayako Smith,  Maiya Galang, and Jiro Go, Students in Gladys Garrido's second grade class choose from a diverse cultural and inherently delicious buffet of food and learning opportunities on board The Sullivans School at Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan.

(Left) Ayako Smith, Maiya Galang, and Jiro Go, Students in Gladys Garrido’s second grade class choose from a diverse cultural and inherently delicious buffet of food and learning opportunities on board The Sullivans School at Yokosuka Navy Base, Japan.

by Steve Parker, Sullivans Elementary School

Thanksgiving is a traditional American holiday and at the Sullivans School on board Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka, this holiday provides for a uniquely non-traditional learning opportunity due to the diverse population that makes up the student body.   The holiday offers chances for cultural learning beyond the long-established history lessons and Sullivan’s teachers relish the opportunity to incorporate this diversity into their instruction.

Parents too, are brought into the school to view plays, watch videos, see costumes and share their own cultural heritage during the culminating potluck dinner attended and enjoyed by all.  Parents enjoyed coming together and helping their children learn.  Over 30 different classes held potluck Thanksgiving dinners to climax their week of learning.

In Rory Vallis’ first grade class, students studied the history of the event with a one-week survey of Native Americans and Pilgrims.  They read grade-appropriate books that highlighted the important facts about each group as they relate to Thanksgiving.

Vallis collected the class’s work in “lap-books” (a type of flip book) that helped them compare and contrast Native Americans and Pilgrims, and map the voyage from Europe to North America as well as list facts about the Mayflower and put the history of Thanksgiving in order.

“It provides a great platform for kids to review the work after they’ve finished it, and to take home to share with their family over the holiday,” said Vallis. “We also recited a Thanksgiving poem (complete with bonnets and pilgrim hats) before our lunch.”

In Susan Davidson’s third grade class, students danced the Virginia Reel, under the direction of Beth Cruse, Sullivans music teacher).  Students also wrote a “What I am Thankful For” project, recorded their voices as reading their story aloud, and put together a movie which parents watched at the culminating potluck.

Their potluck was culturally diverse with more turkey, more stuffing, more ham, and crab tempura, maki-sushi rolls, and chicken adobo on offer.

Molly McKenzie, a Sullivans parent and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) school store manager, attended the event at the school.

“The unique blend of many different cultures brings parents into the schools and guarantees a wonderful opportunity for the kids, who you can see, even though they are all different, is all thankful for the same things,” McKenzie said.

Breclyn Kriener, a parent whose child, Landon, is in Laura Nadeau’s third grade class, described the potluck dinner as “a great opportunity to share with each other and to eat lots of different foods.”

The table in Nadeau’s classroom featured the traditional turkey offered with a soy-ginger sauce as well as brown gravy, pancit, lumpia, and a spicy Thai beef salad.

All in all, parents, teachers and students enjoyed this unique opportunity to savor their own places in history as part of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools’

largest overseas elementary school, the Sullivans, writes another page in their Thanksgiving history.

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