Tulsa teachers’ Boston trip has Thanksgiving focus


TULSA — For many children today, Thanksgiving means a day off school, a morning to sleep in and football on television. They may be unaware of the holiday’s real focus: the hardships the Pilgrims experienced when moving to an unknown environment and the struggles they experienced as they tried to find common ground with another culture in a new land.

But four Tulsa Union teachers who wanted their students to learn the true meaning of Thanksgiving recently went on a journey to bring home more understanding to share with their students. In July, Moore Elementary teachers Tracy Weese, Julie Godfrey, Wendi Rutz and Jane Vanfossen traveled to Boston for a pilgrimage that immersed them in the history that created our nation’s Thanksgiving traditions.

A visit to the Mayflower II, a replica of the ship used by Pilgrims, allowed four Tulsa teachers to better understand what American colonists experienced on their voyage to a new land.

A $10,000 grant from Fund for Teachers and its local community partners, the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and the Tulsa Community Foundation, funded the teachers’ journey.

In July, the voyage started with a workshop on the beliefs and backgrounds of the colonists and Wampanoag Indians, the Mayflower Compact, the 1621 harvest celebration and King Philip’s War. Next, they explored the Mayflower II, a replica of the original ship. To conclude their training, the team attended a seminar at Plymouth Plantation, visiting a 1627 English village, the Wampanoag homesite and the Pilgrim Hall Museum, America’s treasure chest of Pilgrims’ possessions.

Back home in Tulsa, the teachers have capitalized on their trip by teaching Thanksgiving in a new, more meaningful manner. Storybooks, slide shows, pictures and replicas of documents obtained in Plymouth have rounded out their teaching about the colonists’ first harvest.