Book List: The Passing of Time

As we welcome a new year we thought it would be the perfect time to share a book list about the passing of time.  Throughout human existence we have generated ways to record time, and while many of our earlier innovations are no longer used, the old has been blended with the new.  Most children are curious about time, yet it can be a tricky subject to comprehend for younger ones.  Check out our list for some helpful suggestions.

 

About Time: A First Look at Time and Clocks by Bruce Koscielniak

This fabulous book teaches children about the history of timekeeping.  Throughout time, humans have needed to track the passing of time and have discovered many creative ways of doing so.  This book is sure to delight children in the elementary grades and beyond.

 

The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons

Gibbons writes books for children that are beautifully illustrated, clearly written, and tend to mesh very well with the style of Montessori education.  The Reasons for Seasons can be appreciated by younger and older children; it contains simple text that explains the science behind our seasons.  It differentiates between the Northern and Southern hemispheres and teaches kids about solstices, equinoxes, and why the Earth’s axis plays an important role.

 

I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn, illustrated by Julia Denos

We believe that representation matters, and having children’s books that feature children of color is a good thing for all kids.  This is a fun days-of-the-week book in which the main character begins by telling readers about her favorite dress that she wears each Tuesday, which happens to be her favorite day of the week.  One day she discovers the dress is too small, but her creative mother transforms the dress into a shirt that the girl then wears every Wednesday.  That is, until it no longer fits...

 

A Second, a Minute, a Week with Days in it: A Book About Time by Brian P. Cleary, illustrated by Brian Gable

The title of this book says it all: it’s a simple and straightforward explanation about simple units of time.  The illustrations help give children a clear visual representation of these abstract concepts.

 

The Story of Clocks and Calendars by Betsey Maestro, illustrated by Guilio Maestro

Like Koscielniak’s book, The Story of Clocks and Calendars fills the important role of teaching children about the history of time.  Maestro details the differences in calendars from different societies, along with descriptions of various types of clocks.

 

Chicken Soup with Rice by Maurice Sendak

“In January it’s so nice while slipping on the sliding ice to sip hot chicken soup with rice.  Sipping once sipping twice sipping chicken soup with rice.”  This classic Sendak book will help young children learn the names of the months while being delighted by his poems and illustrations.

 

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back by Joseph Bruchac and Jonathan London, illustrated by Thomas Locker

A young Abenaki child is treated to a lesson and storytelling from his grandfather.  The grandfather explains that just as there are thirteen scales on the old turtle’s back, there are thirteen moons during the year.  This book honors the Native American tradition of storytelling, and each page teaches about a different nation’s moon story.  This book would be best appreciated by elementary-aged children.

 

When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year by Penny Pollock, illustrated by Mary Azarian

Another book about the Native American lunar year, the illustrations in this book make it come alive.  Poetry and tradition guide the reader through twelve moons.  While older children would likely enjoy this book, it easily appeals to younger children as well. 

 

A Child’s Calendar by John Updike, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman

Updike’s poems carry readers through the months of the year, highlighting seasons, holidays, and favorite childhood pastimes.  A Child’s Calendar is a Caldecott Honor Book.  

 

Me Counting Time: From Seconds to Centuries by Joan Sweeney, illustrated by Annette Cable 

As a child prepares to celebrate her seventh birthday, she pauses to think about time.  This story is relatable, informative, and entertaining for kids.  Written at about a second-grade reading level, the content would be best enjoyed by children ages 4-7.  They will learn all about units of time, from a second to a millennium.

 

We hope you and your family enjoy these books.  Let us know what you think!

Mindfulness for Children

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You may be very familiar with mindfulness, or you may have a vague notion of a buzz word that has something to do with meditation.  Regardless of your experience, we are here to detail the ways in which mindfulness can be beneficial to your children.  Being more mindful helps people reap a multitude of benefits, anyone can participate, and learning alongside your child can be fun!

What, exactly, is it?

Merriam Webster defines mindfulness as:

  1. the quality or state of being mindful

  2. the practice of maintaining a nonjudgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis

also: such a state of awareness

Sometimes it can be helpful to define mindfulness by stating what it is not.  Mindfulness is not about clearing the mind.  It is not about silence or ending conflict.  Mindfulness is definitely not a quick fix for anything.  Mindfulness provides us with a way of looking deeper at our lives.  We learn to observe events, sensations, and feelings while acknowledging them and accepting them for what they are.  

In today’s society it can be easy for everyone - children included - to get caught up in the daily rush.  Mindfulness allows us to slow down and be present.  Many who are new to the practice may wonder how they might find the time to squeeze in one more thing.  Once you form daily habits of mindfulness you will see your schedule open up, and you may realize your life feels a lot more free and flexible.

Setting realistic expectations

It’s important to remember that mindfulness is nonjudgemental.  Although it does tend to help people in many ways, it wouldn’t be fair to try it with the intention of making a child become, say, more attentive.  Improved attention and focus are a likely outcome, but cannot be expected.  Mindfulness is different for everyone, and acceptance of oneself and each other is a healthier and more realistic goal.

On a more basic level, you may be excited to try these exercises and ideas, while your child may not be.  We find that many kids do love the meditations and games detailed below, but they’re not for everyone and that’s okay.  So, as you give mindfulness a try with your children, keep in mind that they are their own independent people.  Everyone will take away something different from the practice.

The raisin meditation

Mark Williams and Danny Penman have written a great book entitled Mindfulness, an Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World.  This book is written for adults, and we highly recommend it as a resource.  It’s full of scientific explanations regarding how behaviors are dictated by brain function and what we can do to create change within our own lives.  As a bonus, it contains a link to meditation audio files.  Although not a book for children, there is a fantastic exercise contained within that kids love: the raisin meditation.

Sit in a quiet space with your child.  Feel free to light a candle (or not) and get comfy.  Ask your child to open their hand, palm facing upwards, and place a single raisin in the middle.  Tell them not to eat it just yet and take another raisin for yourself.  The goal of this exercise is to slow down and pay close attention, seeing if you can notice attributes that are typically overlooked during the business of our everyday lives.  We use all of our senses to zoom and observe this raisin closely.

  • Sight - Look carefully at your raisin.  What do you see?  Allow your eyes to explore the ridges and valleys, to notice color variations, and to find the spot where this dried grape was once attached to a stem.  What words might you use to describe these observations?

  • Sound - With a raisin, this will surely be a little silly, but that’s okay!  Hold the raisin gently to your ear and have a listen anyway.  Children will revel in watching their parents listen to a piece of dried fruit as they do the same, you will all confirm its silence, and have a giggle before moving on to the next step.

  • Smell - With delicate, inward breathes, take in the scent of the raisin.  What do you notice?  What could you compare it to?  Try not to rush this step; take the time to really pay attention.  Find words to describe the scent.

  • Texture - This will be done in two parts.  First, gently feel the exterior of the raisin with your fingertips.  Repeat the process of noticing and describing.  When everyone is ready, place the raisin on your tongue.  Without chewing use your tongue to pay attention to what the raisin feels like in your mouth.  Later, when you do end up swallowing it, notice the sensations as it travels down your throat.

  • Taste - Likely the moment your child has been waiting for, ask them to take their time while chewing and tasting the raisin.  Because you have spent so much time noticing every detail of this tiny piece of fruit, the anticipation may make it seem like the tastiest raisin you have ever eaten!  Is it sweet?  Sour?  Bland?  Intense?

This activity can be repeated with almost anything, and it’s a great idea to do so.  Wait a few days and try the whole process over again with a chocolate chip, slice of cucumber, or whatever else you happen to be eating.  At mealtimes, take a few moments to be intentional about appreciating your food.  Notice what it looks like, smells like, feels like, and chew slowly to discover more about how it tastes.  Most importantly, have fun while doing so!

Looking for more mindfulness games and activities?  Try these ideas:

  • Object box - Find a small collection of very similar items (cards, pennies, pebbles, etc.)  Each player chooses one and has one minute to study their item carefully.  The items are then placed in a box and shaken up.  Players try to find their original item.

  • Creature search - Take a walk along a familiar path or through a park you frequent.  Everyone has to pay attention and find as many living organisms as possible.  It’s amazing how much we overlook even when we spend time in nature!

  • Visual breath games - There are many variations of this.  Try blowing bubbles or using a pinwheel with your child.  Encourage them to take a deep breath in through their nose and feel the air as it leaves their mouth.  They can take tiny breaths or big breaths, slow breaths or quick breaths. 

Meditation resources

These videos will give you examples of some common, basic mindfulness meditations.  We recommend that you use the videos for their audio.  Children should not be watching the screen as they listen so they can focus on all their senses.

Body scan meditation: Direct your awareness to specific parts of your body, noticing sensations (or lack of sensations).

Loving kindness meditation: Take time to love yourself and send loving thoughts to others. 

Observing thought meditation:  This type of meditation is best for children ages 6 and up.  This video explains why it’s helpful, while this one guides children through the practice. 

We hope this post has been interesting and informative.  If you try any of the meditations or ideas with your children, we would love to hear how it goes!  

5 Ways to Help Kids With Anxiety

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Anxiety is a completely normal part of the human experience.  Both adults and children experience anxiety from time to time.  As children grow, they go through so many changes physically, cognitively, and emotionally, it’s understandable that they may feel nervous occasionally.  You will likely notice your child pass through a number of phases in which they display anxious behaviors.

If you feel like your child’s anxiety is more than just a phase it’s important to talk to your pediatrician.  Anxiety can negatively affect people in a myriad of ways, and it’s important for kids with chronic worry to get help that will change those patterns.  

The good news is there are things we can do at home and school to help children deal with their anxiety, both proactively and reactively.

In the Moment

It helps to have some strategies on hand for when a child is experiencing anxiety.  It can be difficult to learn a new skill while our bodies are experiencing nervousness, so try these out with your child while they are calm the first time.

  • Mountain breath - This is a kid version of the well-known 4-7-8 technique.  If you’re not already familiar, Harvard graduate Dr. Andrew Weil developed the simple exercise.  After releasing the air from your lungs, breath in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and release the breath slowly for a count of 8.  This slows your breathing while also allowing your body to absorb more oxygen.  Ideally 4-7-8 should be practiced several times a day and then used as needed.  For the children’s ‘mountain breath’ version, have your child hold up all five fingers on one hand.  Using the index finger of the opposite hand, they will trace up and down each of the five fingers, pretending they are mountains.  Say, “We climb up the first mountain (breath in), stopping at the top to look around at the view (hold breath).  Then we climb down this side (breath out)”.  They continue this with the remaining four fingers.  The count of 4-7-8 is less important for kids than the pattern and practice.  For more information on Dr. Weil’s technique check out this video:

  • Grounding exercise - The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped cluster located deep inside the brain.  It’s one of the most primitive parts of our brains and serves many functions.  The amygdala is connected to fear conditioning, and is connected to why we react in fearful ways to certain situations and stimuli.  Think of it as your fight or flight center.  

    When we are in the midst of panic, our brains lose the ability to behave according to the reality of a current situation.  Our bodies feel like there is great danger and our amygdala is feeding those false connections.  The good news is there are tools we can teach children to trick that part of their brain and remind themselves that they are safe.

    A grounding exercise uses the senses to remind the brain there isn’t really any immediate danger and that we are safe.  As a quick reference, remember “5,4,3,2,1”.  First, we use our sense of sight.  We look around and locate five things we see and name them, simply.  This can be done aloud or in our heads.  For example, we may say, “Light. Floor. Hand. Paper. Table.”  Next, we identify four things we can feel, and touch them as we name them.  “Hair. Fabric. Wood. Skin.”  We then name three things we can hear. “Breath. Fan. Car.”  The final two steps include identifying two things we smell and one thing we taste.  These steps are not always practical, and it’s okay to skip them.  Again, try to teach this exercise to your child when they are feeling calm so that it’s more accessible to them when they are not.  

    For a video of an extended version of this exercise, watch here:

  • Straw & cotton- This exercise is fun, and likely seems more like a game.  Using a piece of tape (painter’s tape or washi tape works well), create a line about two feet long on a hard floor - carpet won’t work.  Place a cotton ball on one end of the line and using a drinking straw, blow on the cotton ball in an attempt to have it travel the length of the line.  It can be challenging to control one’s breath and keep the cotton on the tape, but it’s a fun and silly exercise.  Doing this distracts the child from anxious thoughts and forces them to control their breath.  If they get really good at it, you can create a tape maze on the floor instead of a simple line.  Have fun with this one!

Creating Routines

Routines help everyone, but especially children, to feel safe and centered.  While flexibility and spontaneity are also important, it’s a good idea to create predictable structures for kids.  Read on for some ideas on how we can support our kids and attempt to prevent anxiety.

  • Morning and evening routines - Waking up is hard.  Especially on these chilly, darker, winter mornings!  Decide on a routine that works for you and your family, then be sure to stick to it.  One sample: get up, use the toilet, get dressed, brush teeth, brush hair, eat breakfast, put shoes on, go to school.  Repeat every day in the same order.  For some children, it helps to keep at least some version of this routine on the weekends.

    Consider the same idea in the evening.  Another sample (but do what works for you!): take a bath, put on pajamas, eat dinner, brush teeth, read two stories, cuddle for five minutes, go to sleep.

  • Preparing ahead - In the evenings, it really helps to get as much done ahead of time for the day ahead.  Much of this responsibility falls to parents, but as children get older they can certainly pitch in.  Some ideas:

    • Making lunches

    • Laying out clothes

    • Keeping bags, jackets, and shoes ready by the door

    • Have healthy breakfasts prepared

    • Leave lots of time - kids often take longer to get things done than we expect.  Instead of rushing them through what needs to be done, wake them up a little earlier or start bedtime sooner than you think you need to so that everything gets done and everyone gets a good night’s sleep.

  • Presetting for changes - Routines are great, but it’s impossible to stick to them all the time.  You may have an early morning meeting, your child may have a doctor’s appointment, or any other number of unpredictable variables may come up.  When this happens it’s unsettling to us as adults, but it can really throw kids off and spark anxiety.  To help ease their concerns, we can preset them ahead of time whenever possible.  The night before a change in routine, take the time to tell your child what will be happening and how it will affect them so they know what to expect.  When something unpredictable happens, take a moment to stop and speak to your child calmly and softly; let them know what’s going on, and what you think will need to be done next.  Including children in conversations about changes is empowering for them, and will likely help them feel calmer about whatever situation they are in.

We hope this post will help you and your family prepare for tough moments of anxiety.  If you try any of these ideas we would love to hear how it goes.  Do you have other tips or tricks?  Let us know!

Gift Giving Montessori Style

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The holiday season is in full swing and if you haven’t already started your shopping you’re probably thinking about it!  This week we take a look at gifts for children, whether they be your own kids, nieces and nephews, or friends.  We all adore that look of joy on a child’s face when they open up a surprise.  Read on for a Montessori holiday gift-giving guide…

Keeping Development in Mind

Montessori’s concept of the developmental planes can be helpful to keep in mind while selecting gifts. Reminding ourselves of the characteristics of each phase of childhood can give surprising insight!  Here’s a brief summary with ideas:


Developmental Plane

Some Characteristics

Gift Ideas

Ages 0-6

  • Sense of order

  • Language development

  • Movement/ development of motor skills

  • Refinement of the Senses

  • Child-sized cleaning supplies

  • Books

  • Scooters or bicycles (tricycles or training wheels)

  • Playdough or cooking tools

Ages 6-12

  • Use of Imagination

  • Creative Thinking

  • Social - Prefers Groups

  • Cultural Awareness

  • Science-based activities or games

  • Art supplies

  • Board games

  • Books about topics of interest

Ages 13-18

  • Creative Expression

  • Physical Development

  • Looking for Place in Society

  • Personal Reflection

  • Music (albums, player, headphones, lessons)

  • Sports or outdoor gear

  • Tickets to an event

  • Journals or items related to their current interests


It’s Okay to Reinvent Expectations

Many of us have fond memories of large piles of presents and we want our children to have great holiday memories, too.  The thing is, it’s okay if their holidays don’t include so much stuff.  Young children, especially, don’t have expectations like we do.  A few carefully chosen, nice quality gifts will make them just as happy as you were as a kid.  You know that nagging feeling you sometimes have that their toys are taking over the house?  It’s totally okay to give them less.   

Another idea to consider is to give the gift of experiences.  This works really well for adults and older children, but can be used with younger children as well.  Tickets to an event, movie passes, or a gift certificate (trampoline park, art open studio time, mini golf) will always be appreciated.  As a bonus, the recipient can often enjoy these experiences with someone they love.

Build in (or Continue!) Traditions

You likely already have traditions, either from your own childhood or that your family has developed over the years.  Creating rituals creates memories, and a deep sense of love and celebration that won’t soon be forgotten.  Looking for some ideas? We’ve got some!

  • Have a collection of holiday books.  Keep them packed away in a closet most of the year, but this time of year they can be placed in a nice basket in your living room, with a new one added each year. 

  • Find a way for your family to give back to the community.  Older children can volunteer at a soup kitchen, but even younger children can help bake cookies to take to local firefighters.  If you live in an area where there is a homeless population, you might work as a family to create care packages: small bags filled with food and other items that might be useful.  They can be kept in your car to give to people as you meet them, or they can be dropped off at a local shelter or similar organization.

  • Bake cookies.  Or cook or bake something else that’s special to your family.  Time spent together in the kitchen is so special, plus you’ll be sharing important skills with your kids.    

  • Make decorations.  With a little guidance, even a six-year-old can string together popcorn and cranberries.  

  • Enjoy storytelling.  Every culture, religion, and family have tales to tell.  Gather around a fireplace, candlelight, or just cozy up on the couch and tell stories.  Folktales, myths, and family history are all great!

Resources for Montessori Families

Are you looking for specific places to buy gifts?  Try supporting small local businesses - they often have items that are hard to find anywhere else.  As a bonus you will be supporting your local economy and helping your neighbors!

For Montessori-specific gifts, we recommend the following:

For Small Hands/Montessori Services

https://www.forsmallhands.com/

https://www.montessoriservices.com/

This company provides high-quality products with Montessori families specifically in mind.  

Acorn Naturalists

https://www.acornnaturalists.com/store/index.aspx

If you’re looking for nature and outdoor learning gifts, look no further!  This website caters to teachers, but many of the learning materials would be just as appreciated at home.

Nova Natural

https://www.novanatural.com/

With a focus on real wood and natural fibers, this Vermont-based toy company is a Montessori parent’s dream.

Happy shopping!

Zoology in the Montessori Classroom

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Montessori curriculum tends to give children opportunities to learn about fascinating areas of study very early in their school career.  Science is no exception, and one major component of a Montessori elementary (and even primary!) education is the study of zoology.  This post will highlight the content covered and how students typically explore the work.

Starting with the big picture

In the Montessori world, most areas of study start with the big, overarching picture and gradually narrow down to specifics.  This gives children a firm understanding and context in which they can place the details.  Zoology is no different.

What better way to teach about life on our planet than to begin with a look at the five kingdoms?  Montessori children learn about monera, protista, fungi, plants, and animals.  These early lessons are simple; they describe the major defining characteristics of each kingdom and give a few examples of each (with pictures, of course).  One neat feature of this work is that the lesson can be given to younger children as they first begin to learn about zoology, but can be given again at a later age when children are ready to expand upon this knowledge.  Science material that can be appreciated at different levels of learning is especially handy in a multi-age classroom.

Categorizing

After children learn about the five kingdoms, they begin to categorize the animal kingdom.  The simplest way to do this is to define and sort the vertebrates and invertebrates.  Children learn the evolutionary advantages to having a backbone, when the earliest creatures with spines began their life on earth, and which modern animals have one or don’t.  

After mastering their understanding of vertebrates and invertebrates, children begin their study of the five classes of vertebrates: fish, reptile, amphibian, bird, and mammal.  Once again, this work starts out simple but becomes more complex as time goes on and the child’s knowledge base expands.  

A layered curriculum

A six year old’s study of reptiles will look very different from the study of a child just a year older.  The six year old will likely be at the word level of reading and learning (especially early in the year).  They will learn that a turtle has a head, feet, tail, and a shell made up of a plastron, carapace, and bridge.  You may have noticed that some of these words are quite familiar, and some are most likely brand new and fascinating to the child.  On the other side of the table our seven year old will be studying the body functions of the turtle.  They will discover how the turtle meets its needs for movement, protection, support, circulation, respiration, and reproduction.  This will include information such as the reptile’s three-chambered heart, the fact that it lays leathery eggs, and that it uses lungs to breath in oxygen.

Older students may review this information by playing classification games and asking one another questions (much like a scientific version of the game twenty questions).  They may conduct research on animals they find particularly interesting, which gives them opportunities to explore their own work, learn how to research properly, write a short report, and gather more zoology information.  Eventually they will go on to more deeply explore invertebrates and their contributions during the evolution of life on earth as well as what they look like and function like today.

What are three part cards?

Many areas of study in Montessori classrooms utilize three part cards, particularly in primary classrooms.  While studying zoology, children will use this style of material as they work to define the five classes of vertebrates.  What, exactly, are they?

In the primary classroom, a set will include cards with pictures, cards with labels, and a control card that displays the picture with the label so that the child is able to check their own work.  While something similar may be used with students just entering the elementary level, three part cards at this level tend to look a bit different.  They generally consist of a picture, label, and definition.  While there is a control available as well (often in the form of a booklet or wall chart), the elementary-style cards provide a higher level of reading opportunity so that the child is able to practice multiple academic skills within the same work.

The beauty of three part cards is that children are drawn to them, they have built-in controls that foster independence and self-teaching (after the initial lesson), and a teacher observing a child using them can quickly discern the child’s level of mastery

Extensions and more...

As mentioned before, studying zoology lends itself seamlessly to research projects for older students.  Students of all ages can benefit from art integration as a means of reinforcing concepts while expressing their creative side.  For example, a collage of a fish’s body may be made, which may then be turned into a labeled diagram.  

Did you know that the Montessori study of zoology directly ties into large parts of the elementary history curriculum?  Many of the animals the children study in their science lessons can be found on the Timeline of Life, which is a beautiful and impressionistic material that teaches children about the evolution of life on earth.  Starting with the beginning of the Paleozoic era, in which one-celled organisms and simple life forms floated through the sea, through the Quaternary period and the emergence of early hominids, children are able to see the connections between the various kingdoms and classes, bringing the details of their learning back to the big picture again.

Thanksgiving Through a Native Lens

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Thanksgiving is a much-loved American holiday for most people.  As with many events in history, many of the facts have been altered throughout the years. Often these false versions of the event are even taught in a variety of schools.  In the spirit of taking a closer look at our country’s culture and history, we dedicate this blog post to acknowledging the perspective of the native people.

History of the Event 

When the early colonists (often referred to as ‘pilgrims’) landed in North America, they built their village in close proximity to a group of people called the Wampanoag.  While the two groups had made contact with one another, they weren’t really considered friends. In fact, the colonists stole corn and other items they found that was assumed to be harvested by the native people.

Life in a new land was very hard on the colonists.  Many of their people died and everyday life was a struggle.  To celebrate the passing of their first year, the people decided to hold a celebration which would include food and games.  They discharged weapons as either a part of their celebration or perhaps while hunting, and the sound of the guns alarmed the nearby Wampanoag people.  Sachem Massasoit and a group of 90 men traveled to investigate the situation and soon realized that there was no threat.  This small group of Wampanoag men joined in the celebration which lasted three days.  Primary source documents suggest that the native men hunted several deer and perhaps some other game to contribute.  Many of the foods we consider traditional were not, in fact, enjoyed during that celebratory feast.

It is important to note that while this one particular Thanksgiving celebration is the root of our historical holiday, the Wampanoag people gave thanks via formal celebrations several times each year for thousands of years prior.  These traditions were a way of acknowledging the earth, as well as their people’s connections to the earth and to each other.  Today’s modern Thanksgiving is a day of mourning for many native people, as they remember their generosity toward the settlers was met with theft of land, violence, and destruction of their homes and people just a generation later. 

Wampanoag Thanksgivings

Wampanoag people gave thanks each day and held many special celebrations throughout the year.  Their new year coincides with planting crops in the spring. The beginning of summer is marked with a strawberry celebration. Cranberry Day was (and still is) celebrated in the fall and a winter celebration was a time to share food and supplies with those who did not have as much.  To this day, native children are given the day off from school to celebrate Cranberry Day, an important cultural tradition.

The video below shows elder Gladys Widdiss recounting her experiences with Cranberry Day when she was young, and also shows Wampanoag educator Annawan Weeden teaching a group of teachers how to play a traditional game called hubbub.

Interested in trying traditional native food?  The recipe for nasaump comes from the Plimoth Plantation website (https://www.plimoth.org/learn/just-kids/recipes): 

Nasaump is a traditional Wampanoag dish that is made from dried corn, local berries, and nuts. It is boiled in water until it thickens and is similar to a porridge or oatmeal.

1 1/2 cups cornmeal

1 cup strawberries, raspberries, blueberries or a combination of all three

1/2 crushed walnuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds or a combination of all three

1 quart water

maple syrup or sugar to taste (optional)

Combine cornmeal, berries, crushed nuts, and the optional sweetener in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.  

Follow the link above to find more recipes, including the English settlers’ stewed pompion (pumpkin).

Common Myths

History has debunked much of what we consider to be true about Thanksgiving.  Some common myths:

  • The pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.  Plymouth Rock is a landmark that visitors flock to even today.  There is no evidence that the colonists actually landed on the rock, and in fact evidence suggests quite the opposite.

  • Squanto was a friend to the pilgrims.  Squanto, one of the few native people that spoke English, often served as an interpreter between the two groups.  Years earlier, he had been captured and taken to Europe as a slave, only to eventually return home to find his people’s village wiped out by disease.  Squanto used his position to his own benefit, often stirring up trouble between the colonists and the native people.

  • There was cranberry sauce and popcorn at the celebration.  There is no record of either, or many other foods that people believe the Wampanoags and colonists shared.  There were the deer that Massasoit and his men caught, as well as turkey, nasaump, and pumpkin.

  • The colonists and Wampanoags were friends.  The Europeans viewed the native people as heathens and the Wampanoags did not trust the colonists.  As time went on, the colonists took more of the native people’s land, and when the Wampanoags attempted to defend themselves, they were massacred, sold into slavery, or forced to flee.

To learn more about the history of the Wampanoags, early English colonists, and their interactions, visit the following pages:

http://www.wampanoagtribe.net/pages/wampanoag_education/celebrations

http://www.bostonkids.org/learning-resources/native-voices

http://oyate.org/index.php/resources/43-resources/thanksgiving 

https://www.plimoth.org/learn-something-old