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Blair Oaks youngsters celebrate a Colonial Thanksgiving

Trip back in time

Fourth-grader Anna Hankins, at top, practices calligraphy Tuesday using a feather quill pen while dressed as a colonial-era Native American during Early American Day at Blair Oaks Elementary School.

Fourth-grader Anna Hankins, at top, practices calligraphy Tuesday using a feather quill pen while dressed as a colonial-era Native American during Early American Day at Blair Oaks Elementary School. Photo by Kris Wilson.

WARDSVILLE, Mo. -- Cole Peters — a 7-year-old student at Blair Oaks Elementary School — carefully dipped the cotton wick into the tin can full of melted wax.

“Whoa! It’s kind of hot!” he exclaimed to his friends who also were busy making their own candles.

In honor of Thanksgiving, the students spent Tuesday engaged in a variety of activities that would also have occupied Americans’ earliest settlers. Not only did the students make candles, they churned butter, baked Johnny cakes, practiced their calligraphy with a feathered ink pen and danced to Colonial-era tunes. In all, the students moved through about 17 stations through the course of the school day. The most popular was a scavenger hunt that took students all over the Blair Oaks campus in search of clues.

The Colonial-themed event was the first for the small elementary school.

Megan Lueckenotte and Jaelynn Schaefer, both 7 years old, sat near Peters. As they carefully made their own candles, they also chatted a little about what they were learning.

“We learned where the Indians lived, and how they traveled,” Lueckenotte said.

“We talked about what the Pilgrims ate,” Schaefer added. “Things like cornbread, turkey, vegetables …”

None of the students could quite imagine what it might be like to live without lights and electricity. Peters remembered a power outage once happened in the morning, but his mother simply opened the window shades to let more light in their home.

Most of the staff and many of the students came to school dressed in either Native American or Pilgrim attire, explained Principal Kim Rodriquez.

Also on Tuesday, historical actor Clint Winn told the students stories of life in Colonial times. Winn said some of his material came from the writings of Caleb Johnson, a historian who specializes in the Plymouth Colony settlement. Winn noted the first voyage in 1620 was extremely arduous, since huge waves kept swamping the deck until a key structural support timber broke.

“They tried to build fires in small metal boxes, but it was dangerous,” Winn said. “It was cold and wet, and the ship leaked.”

Winn also shared with the students Gov. William Bradford’s Proclamation, which reads: “Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as he has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience.

Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November 29th, of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all His blessings.”

Winn said he was aiming for “historical accuracy” in his portrayal to the students.

“I like to tell the truth wrapped in humor,” he said.

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