BENNINGTON >> For the third straight year, students in the Mount Anthony Union Middle School practical and life skills course hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for over 100 parents, staff, and service providers.
The event has continued to grow for each of the three years, said teacher Pamm Powers, from 63 the first year, to 80 last year, to over 100 on Tuesday. The purpose of the practical and life skills class, said Powers, is to teach students skills that will help them function not only in the school environment, but outside of school as well, eventually helping them become employable citizens. "As part of their current curriculum the students are studying fractions and other types of measurement, budgeting and comparison shopping, as well as other basic money skills, the 13 Colonies Social Studies, and letter writing in English Language Arts," she said, "They also learn to work cooperatively in small groups with their peers. To apply these skills to real life, I have the students plan, seek donations for, and prepare a full Thanksgiving dinner."
"From the very start of this project until they walk out the door to go home for Thanksgiving Break they are learning something," she said, "The project will carry with them. We, of course, think of the obvious, the cooking and everything that goes along with that, hygiene, cleaning up afterward, all of those aspects that go along with preparing a meal, but there is so much more that the students learn as they go through this entire process. They grow by leaps and bounds."
The 15 students in the class worked alongside Powers, paraeducators Shannon Cutler, Jill Campbell Gore, and Laurene Percey, and volunteers Helen Hilchey and Alexis Gore to prepare for the feast. In total, they served five 25 lb. turkeys, 65 lbs. of potatoes, 20 lbs. of yams, 20 lbs. of corn, 20 lbs. of carrots, stuffing made from 10 loaves of bread, 10 lbs. of onions, three lbs. of celery, applesauce made from a bushel of apples, and two 20 lb. casserole dishes of homemade macaroni and cheese. The students and helpers also made 10 loaves of cranberry walnut Irish soda bread, which was served with cinnamon-honey butter.
Powers said that organization is a huge aspect of putting on a meal of this size. "A tremendous amount of planning goes into this, so following directions, problem solving, working cooperatively, not only with peers, but with adults as well, and sometimes they need to risk working independently," she said, "They have to try things they've never tried before, and develop communication skills if something becomes difficult of if they need a assistance. Each student in the class has a strength, some have many, and we draw on those strengths to each child can feel the most success. Some enjoy cooking and baking, some enjoy art, some love to do dishes, some are good communicators, some are unsure. Everybody has a job and they all did their jobs very well."
"The highlight for me," she said, "is to see the glow on their faces as their parents, guardians, respite workers, and friends show up at the door and they lead them to their seats. They are so excited to take them through the buffet line and explain a little bit about what they did and made, then to watch 100 people sit together and eat as a community what we have just prepared for them. The students feel it too. We have had conversations about how exciting and important it is to give appreciation to those people who work hard for us every day — our parents, administrators, OT's, PT's, SLP's, Office staff, counselors, security personnel, and maintenance personnel. The lives of these students would be much different if it weren't for these behind the scenes people who do so much for us every day. So this is how we thank them. It's very exciting for a student to involved in such an exciting and meaningful mission and it's my hope that they will all remember what this is about and continue it in their own lives in one way or another."