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School Thanksgiving Bucks, Buttresses Tradition

the greenhouse school
patricia jennings-welch, executive director
145 loring avenue - salem, massachusetts 01970



Greenhouse School Thanksgiving Bucks, Buttresses Tradition

"Of course we have turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce," says Director Dan Welch of The Greenhouse School's Thanksgiving celebration on Tuesday. "The meal itself is very traditional. What is a bit out of the box is our preparation and the curiculum leading up to it."

Welch is referring to two ways in which the small independent alternative school distinguishes itself from others in this most American of holidays. The meal itself is prepared almost entirely by the children, from infancy through grade eight, who even churn their own butter. "Each student is asked to bring in an apple, a potato, and a carrot," says Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde, the school's Assistant Director. "Then we all wash, peel, cut and cook the results into the components of the meal."

"We especially love the 'hourglass carrots,'" says Welch, referring to the shape the peeled root vegetable takes when an overzealous 3- year-old sous-chef gets stuck in repetitive motion, leaving large, nubby ends and a paper thin middle. "But it's all part of the process, and that's the goal."

Community is the goal, more precisely, and this leads to the school's second break from tradition. The school's position is outlined clearly in a recent parent notice: "We regard this holiday as an important celebration fo family and community, not necessarily an endorsement of the historical celebration. We take seriously our mission to expose children to the historical truth about the treatment of the American Indians by the settler population."

Welch elaborates: "The communal meal dates from my mom's days working in the public schools. Even back in the early seventies, she had a big electric dutch oven and prepared a turkey in the classroom, with the kids all pitching in." The Greenhouse School version started to evolve when Welch, and later his wife Nambalirwa-Lugudde, got more involved in the school.

"The sad thing about what we don't know about our own history is that it's so unnecessary," says Nambalirwa-Lugudde. "There are so many resources, from 'Lies My Teacher Told Me' to 'I love Paul Revere Whether he Rode or Not' to Howard Zinn's 'People's History of the United States.'" Not to mention everything available online. And then as recently as this year, my husband and I were watching cable TV and saw a so-called 'History of Thanksgiving' making all the same mistakes and misrepresentations."

"It's really important to who we strive to be as a school," Welch adds. "The near annihilation of the indigenous population, along with the enslavement of Africans, is one of the two seminal founding conditions for the development of the United States. It is unthinkable for me, as a historian, to try to teach children without attempting to counter the major misconceptions on which the founding mythology is based."

"The way things are going, our children and grandchildren are likely to inherit not only the poisoned world we leave them, but also the poisonous ideas we instill in them. Every period of adventurism in our history is aided and abetted by an almost willful ignorance about that same history. We are well aware of the limits of our influence as a small school. But if we start by studying '500 Nations' instead of the myth of Squanto, we are making one small correction in the way our kids might grow up, and, just maybe, in the world they will create."


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