Preschool­ers cel­e­brate ‘Friends­giv­ing’ at Christina Early Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter

Newark Post - - LOCAL NEWS - By BROOKE SCHULTZ [email protected]­pub.com

With ta­bles set and ev­ery­one gath­ered to­gether, serv­ings of stuff­ing, gravy and turkey were passed around the cafe­te­ria Tues­day af­ter­noon at the Christina Early Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter for the an­nual Friends­giv­ing cel­e­bra­tion.

“We love ac­tiv­i­ties like that where ever ybody just comes to­gether,” Prin­ci­pal Re­becca Ryan said.

This is Friends­giv­ing’s ninth it­er­a­tion, and this year it has grown to in­clude the af­ter­noon stu­dents, who en­joyed a Thanks­giv­ingstyle meal when they ar­rived at 1:15 p.m. So Tues­day, the school served all 450 of the kids from var­i­ous back­grounds who at­tend CEEC.

The cel­e­bra­tion’s ori­gins be­gan rel­a­tively hum­ble, Ryan ex­plained. The first year they came to­gether, they rolled out a huge piece of pa­per and sat on the floor up­stairs, with food that the teach­ers had pre­pared.

Even­tu­ally, they moved to the cafe­te­ria, where they re­or­ga­nized the ta­bles to form a cir­cle around the room like a long din­ner ta­ble.

Plan­ning for Friends­giv­ing be­gan in Septem­ber, where the school co­or­di­nated the cafe­te­ria staff and cus­to­di­ans to get ready for the cel­e­bra­tion.

Be­yond a fun themed lunch, and the chance to wear brightly col­ored ac­ces­sories dec­o­rated to look like tur­keys or pil­grim hats, there are ben­e­fits to hav­ing the school come to­gether in this way, Ryan ex­plained.

“So­cial-emo­tional learn­ing is re­ally big with preschool­ers,” Ryan said. “This is the age where we’re teach­ing them to be friends, and share, and take turns, and all those things.”

In a tra­di­tional lunch – not just Friends­giv­ing – Ryan noted that they eat fam­ily-style, with the goal that the stu­dents them­selves will serve, pass and learn meal eti­quette by the end of the year. Friends­giv­ing also al­lows the school to in­tro­duce the stu­dents to dif­fer­ent foods.

“We just try to teach that at this age; it’s such an im­pres­sion­able age,” she said. “So much of what we hit on as part of our cur­ricu­lum is so­cial-emo­tional learn­ing.”

In ad­di­tion to bring­ing ever yone to­gether as friends and try­ing new foods, Ryan said the school also part­ners with lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions to dis­trib­ute food to fam­i­lies in need.

This year, the school part­nered with Word of Life Chris­tian Cen­ter to dis­trib­ute 30 turkey bas­kets to fam­i­lies at the school. The bas­kets in­cluded a turkey, stuff­ing, cran­ber­ries, pota­toes, gravy and more.

“That was pretty amaz­ing, too,” she said.

Within the class­rooms, in the time lead­ing up the hol­i­day, teach­ers spent time read­ing Thanks­giv­ing sto­ries and teach­ing what the first Thanks­giv­ing was all about. As a school, there is a larger fo­cus on the idea of the “friends part of it,” Ryan said.

“That’s why we call it Friends­giv­ing,” she said. “We also have many stu­dents within our school with many dif­fer­ent be­liefs. So all might not nec­es­sar­ily cel­e­brate Thanks­giv­ing, but we can all be friends.”

NEWARK POST PHOTO BY BROOKE SCHULTZ

The Christina Early Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter brought to­gether all of its stu­dents for a Friends­giv­ing meal Tues­day.

Stu­dents were able to en­joy a turkey lunch, with cran­ber­ries, gravy and stuff­ing with their class­mates.

The Friends­giv­ing cel­e­bra­tion at the Christina Early Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter is in its ninth year.

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