Fifth Graders celebrate a Colonial Christmas

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The fifth graders at Phenix Elementary School have been researching how colonists in Virginia celebrated Christmas in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. In correlation of Virginia Standards of Learning for Virginia Studies, Librarian Watkins had the fifth graders do a project focusing on three different aspects of how Christmas would have been observed during colonial time. The students were divided into three groups and each group was assigned one of the following topics: food, decorating, or singing.

After reviewing primary and secondary sources, the students used journal entries and letters first to find out how the colonist prepared for the Christmas season. After discussing their findings, the groups used the Colonial Williamsburg site, found in Watkin’s favorite links, to find out additional information using a secondary source. When the research was completed, each group worked on preparing for a colonial celebration.

One group made sugar biscuits using only three ingredients — butter, flour and sugar — and only using their hands no electric mixer to prepare the dough. The decorating group made a centerpiece of apples, boxwood, and a pineapple using a pyramid form that was made of wood and nails. They also used oranges and cloves to make a fragrant centerpiece. Finally, TDT Counselor and PTO President Lisa Walker helped the singing group learn three traditional Christmas carols.

The culminating activity was the actual celebration in the library. The students entered the library to find it transformed. Candlelight, cloth tablecloths and napkins, silver trays, a glass punch bowl with real glasses and real greenery decorated the room. Retired teacher Rhonda Jones dressed in authentic clothing borrowed from Red Hill, along with Watkins, guided the students in a discussion of what they observed about the library. This lead to a great review about what they had learned during the project. Walker led the singers in Christmas songs sung a cappella. The students enjoyed this interactive learning experience.