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History lesson served with a side of corn

Lucas Behlem bites into corn on the cob in JoAnn Summerall’s kindergarten class at Brooksville Elementary School on Monday morning during their Florida Feast, a lesson Summerall built around Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ landing at St. Augustine in 1565.

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times

Lucas Behlem bites into corn on the cob in JoAnn Summerall’s kindergarten class at Brooksville Elementary School on Monday morning during their Florida Feast, a lesson Summerall built around Pedro Menendez de Aviles’ landing at St. Augustine in 1565.

BROOKSVILLE

Little Bunny, also known as Savanna Hardy, 4, is one of 20 children who enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast on Sept. 8. If that seems a little early, it's because this event commemorated Spain's Admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles' landing at St. Augustine in 1565. Brooksville Elementary kindergarten teacher JoAnn Summerall, who was known that day as Snow Mountain, had been at a workshop in St. Augustine during July and returned with the book, America's REAL First Thanksgiving, by Robin Gioia, and some history to teach. Menendez and his men were greeted by the local inhabitants, the Timucuans. After a Mass celebrated by the Spanish priest Father Francisco Lopez de Mandoza Grajales, she explained, the Timucua people provided the Spanish explorers with a feast.

Summerall asked the children what they had learned about the Timucua. "They were helpers. They were willing to share," she reminded them.

The children were outfitted in feathers, headbands and fringe. They had Indian names for the day, including Eagle Feather, Shining Star, Running Bear and Dancing Water.

When parents and siblings arrived for the celebration, Summerall gave a brief description of the Menendez landing. "The priest was there and they stopped and said let's be thankful for this day," she said. Menendez declared the land for Spain.

The children entertained by singing Ten Little Indians. Then everyone went outdoors to watch the children perform a rabbit dance. They hopped in a circle. That was a favorite with Savanna. "I was dancing all around," she said.

Savanna mentioned another thing she and her classmates had done to learn about this time in history. "We colored Indians and cut them out," she said.

Summerall described what she had hoped the children would learn from this lesson. "I wanted them to know the first feast was in Florida and the Indians were helpers, like we all should be," she said. "I think they had a good time with the rabbit dance and the food."

Ah, the food. Summerall asked the children "Are you ready to have a feast you made with your own little hands?" They were.

Summerall made the meal as authentic as she could and the children helped.

They washed their hands first. They shucked corn.

They snapped beans.

They made a corn, bean and squash stew. They roasted chicken legs (to be as close to turkey as was reasonable). They had tortillas to symbolize the type of bread the Spaniards may have been served.

David Neil Ledbetter, 5, also known as Running Bear, said the feast was "pretty good."

"He's learning about the cultures that preceded us," his father, David Ledbetter, said.

"He had a lot of fun making that costume," his mother, Jeanne Ledbetter, said. "He even found that feather."

Parent Jennifer Looper, whose son Hunter Looper is in the class, was impressed with what Summerall had done. "She's the only teacher that does all this," she said. "She's wonderful."

History lesson served with a side of corn 09/17/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 18, 2008 9:08pm]

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