Written by Linda Mittiga.
Cherry Avenue Third-grade Teacher Karen Donnelly scheduled a culmination of a very special unit for her Sayville students –a “Celebrating Our Heritage” Dessert Feast.
The class began the unit with a reading of the book Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen. “It is about a Third-grade girl named Molly who came to America with her family from Russia.” Mrs. Donnelly explained, paraphrasing the book jacket’s story summary.
“Molly is bullied in school because she doesn't talk and look like the other children in her class.When her teacher assigns the class a Pilgrim-doll project, Molly's mother makes a clothespin doll to look like a Russian woman. Something wonderful happens as the class learns the true meaning of Thanksgiving, and that it takes all kinds of people to make up a great country like America.”
Mrs. Donnelly asked her students to report on a country of their origins, present it to the class, and prepare a dessert from their country for the end-of-the-unit dessert feast—just before Thanksgiving break. The students were urged to invite their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles to the celebration.
“I have encouraged students to bake with a member of their family. Last year I was so pleased to have a great-grandmother of a student come to our feast and tell me that she and her great-granddaughter made Italian cookies from an old, family recipe from generations before. The dialogue they had together was priceless!”
In addition to the Sayville Third-graders learning about their heritage from family members, Mrs. Donnelly emphasized the lesson about bullying derived from Molly’s Pilgrim. “My students broke into groups to discuss and answer specific questions, such as: What does bullying look like? What does bullying feel like? What can you do if you are bullied? What can you do if you see bullying?
They wrote their answers down on sentence strips, and we have it displayed in front of our classroom. As an extra credit project, students designed their own ‘Pilgrim clothespin dolls’ from their country of origin, which are displayed as well.”
As entertainment for the guests at the Dessert Feast, the Third-graders performed a Reader's Theater Script, recited a poem and sang a song. This was immediately followed by everyone enjoying desserts from around the world as they met each others special family members.
“In our lives often filled with busy days and stress,” Mrs. Donnelly commented, “this unit is one of my favorites for bringing people together and being mindful of what makes us special!”