Education feature: Students share class feast with family

By Argen Duncan: PNT Senior Writer

Twenty students in the first grade and ingredients for enough Thanksgiving dinners to feed three families — that’s Steiner Elementary School teacher Marea Smith’s recipe for a class feast.

For seven years, since she began teaching at first grade, Smith has led her students in making Thanksgiving dishes from scratch and then having a turkey lunch with their families.

Smith said the class had discussed what everyone is thankful for and the history of Thanksgiving. She said she does the dinner because she feels blessed.

“Schooling is about making memories and sharing experiences, so even though it’s a challenge to coordinate, I do it every year,” Smith said.

Monday, Smith said, she divided the students into four groups of five and each group helped make one dish — green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, rolls or pumpkin pie. She prepares the turkey.

Before the lunch Tuesday, Smith planned to have students make fruit salad, roll napkins and silverware and make place settings.

“They make enough for it to be a light lunch for everybody,” she said.

Earlier preparations included making luminarias decorated with turkeys for students to take home and listings of things to be thankful for on the back of paper numeral fours to hang from the classroom ceiling.

During the dinner, which feeds 50-60 people, pairs of students perform Thanksgiving jokes, Smith said.

The children were looking forward to the “feast” Monday.

“I think that’s just wonderful, and we get to do jokes, and I just can’t wait for that to happen,” first-grader Kealey Horner said.

First-grader Matthew Ramirez, who helped make the sweet potato casserole, felt the same.

“I want it to happen right now,” he said.

Their classmate Hunter Husted said he learned how to make pies, which he’s helped with before, and his favorite part of the experience was cooking with friends. He thought the food would be good at the lunch.

Each child brings an ingredient for the side dishes or dessert, and Smith provides the turkey. A few parents offer their help as well.

When Smith first began teaching first grade, several other teachers had projects similar to the turkey lunch. She wanted to expose students to the writing genres of recipes and jokes.

“We introduce them to many genres throughout the first-grade year, so this was an opportunity to introduce them to this (recipe) genre and following directions,” Smith said.

With the jokes, she pairs strong readers with struggling students and has them rehearse. Smith said many of the children don’t know how to deliver a punch line, so she helps them learn.