The following article was written by Marilyn Joyce Lehren, manager of communications and community outreach for Livingston Public Schools.
As we paused on Thanksgiving to spend time together and give thanks for all the good things in life, Livingston students were showing the true meaning of gratitude and compassion with a Thanksgiving bounty of giving to restock empty food shelves, provide warm coats, and help relief efforts in the Philippines.
At Heritage Middle School, students packed dozens of Thanksgiving food baskets and turkeys for families in our own community. And in a special symposium, they “stepped out" of their own shoes and into another's to gain a better sense of how they can make a positive difference in the world.
That global perspective was evident at Livingston High School, where students coordinated disaster relief to aid Typhoon Haiyan survivors. Livingston High School clubs sent supplies, while the local food pantry, CHOW, emptied its shelves to fill an international container before it left port.
The elementary schools, meanwhile, helped replenish those shelves to help our local community needs, an effort noticeable at Harrison in particular, where student council members decorated boxes to look like turkeys for the donations.
Thanksgiving presented a variety of opportunities for teachers to tie the holiday with curriculum, everything from the patterns designed on paper bag headdresses in early grades to shared reading of stories and poems, and lessons on the First Thanksgiving.
For their first Thanksgiving in Livingston Public Schools, kindergarteners were popping popcorn and churning butter, and giving thanks with music and poems. They shard the things they are grateful for — and yes, kids say the funniest things — everything from candy to family.
One lucky teacher received a poster of why her students are grateful for her "because she teaches me how to read and how to get all my wiggles out.” That along with her long hair and black boots.
Wednesday saw classroom celebrations. First graders at Hillside, for example, read the folk story “Stone Soup” (about sharing and giving) and are then made their own "stone soups" to slurp.
The Mt. Pleasant Elementary Student Council organized a fundraiser for Typhoon Haiyan and tornado victims in Illinois. The children made the connection to the storms that rocked our area in the fall the past two years and wanted to do something to support others affected by the weather, said Principal Natalie Kosonocky.
Next door, the sixth graders at Mt. Pleasant Middle School have been raising money for the American Heart Association with “Hoops for Heart,” a perennial favorite at MPMS had the kids shooting and jumping the day before Thanksgiving.
In a townwide effort, many students in second and fifth grades took part in special social studies curriculum on “Being Thankful: Then and Now” as part of the Livingston at 200 celebration.
Fifth-graders and teachers enacted “museum tableaus” depicting settlers in 1813 Livingston. The displays revolved around the themes of food, celebration, family, and spirituality. (Shown in the website slideshow are Riker Hill students with their work on Colonial homes).
Second graders explored the idea of giving thanks in the past and present by filming brief clips on an iPad titled, “What Are You Thankful For?”
The program was created through the joint efforts of the school district, Livingston Citizens’ Institute, and the Livingston Public Library.