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Challenger K-8 kindergarteners learn how to cook Thanksgiving meal

Challenger K-8 kindergartener Abigail Keister, 5, butters a turkey as she and the rest of Margie Yurtinis’ class prepare food for a feast as part of learning about the first Thanksgiving. Several parents were on hand to assist.

PAULETTE LASH RITCHIE | Special to the Times

Challenger K-8 kindergartener Abigail Keister, 5, butters a turkey as she and the rest of Margie Yurtinis’ class prepare food for a feast as part of learning about the first Thanksgiving. Several parents were on hand to assist.


At a table just outside of Margie Yurtinis' kindergarten classroom at Challenger K-8 School of Science and Mathematics, children, assisted by visiting parents, peeled hard-cooked eggs.

"Humpty Dumpty is breaking out of his shell," said Jordan Destaffaney, 6.

Just inside the door, other children were coating turkeys with butter. Nearby, children were filling Bugles snacks with peanut butter, topping them with colored cereal balls, making tiny cornucopias.

Parent Nathan Brooks sat at another table, where children tore bread slices into chunks for stuffing. Also on the table sat a pan of sauteed onions, ready for mixing when the bread was done.

"We're making really good stuffing. Yummy stuffing," said Brooks' son, John, 5.

Happy to chat, John admitted he does not care for bread crust, but he is willing to pick it out. He is okay with crusts, though, if the bread is straight from the bakery.

Off to Brooks' right, another volunteer worked with children preparing radishes, carrots, celery and parsley. To Brooks' left, children were making sweet potato casserole, the kind with marshmallows.

Aubrie Carlson, 6, and Jackson Hoyt, 6, said sweet potato casserole was a first for them.

Emma Bauknight, 5, and Aden Juan, 5, worked on pumpkin pies, mixing milk and eggs.

Nearby, other pies were being created — thankful pies, made of paper bowls and muslin crust and filled with paper apple slices where the children put things for which they are thankful. The children were assisted by eighth-grader Amanda Litwinsky, 13, who comes to Yurtinis' class as one of her electives.

All this cutting and cooking was part of Yurtinis' annual Thanksgiving feast, which was held the next day. She has been doing this for 33 years.

"The reason I do it this way," she said, is "the children learn from it. They measure. They talk about ingredients, and it's real. It's a really wonderful thing with the home/school connection."

This is the culmination of an early American history unit. The students learn about Pilgrims and Native Americans, incorporating other disciplines, such as math and writing, as they go.

Several parents helped out. Robin Barrett tended the turkeys.

"I had to rinse (them) and take out all the fun stuff and butter and season them," she said.

Over at the stuffing table, Nathan Brooks was joined by his wife, D.D.

Said Nathan: "It's good experience for the children to see what goes into a Thanksgiving meal."

They both admitted their inexperience. With their parents living close by, they have always left Thanksgiving up to them.

So when D.D. Brooks suggested why Yurtinis does this, she laughed and said, "We wouldn't want them to be 37 and never made stuffing."

Challenger K-8 kindergarteners learn how to cook Thanksgiving meal 11/21/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 21, 2012 5:45pm]
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