Kindergarteners enjoy stone soupPhoto by Judy Chiss

Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

Promptly at 2:30 p.m. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, 62 Kingsley kindergartners congregated in the school’s front foyer for a Thanksgiving celebration – and a bowl of soup.  A long table covered with red-and-white-checked cloth stretched the length of the foyer, with just enough seats for the diners, who in this case were also the donors of the ingredients and the cooks.  The students and their teachers were decked out in handcrafted, three-dimensional turkey headbands, ready to sample the communally made soup that culminated their study of the classic folk tale “Stone Soup.”

In the days leading up to their celebration, teachers Randy Heite, Kelly Post, and Vanessa Shropshire read the children many versions of the traditional “Stone Soup” tale.  Regardless of the country or time in history in which a particular tale was set, the story unfolded to reveal the strength people had when they cooperated and worked together.  In most versions of the story, hungry protagonists outsmart miserly villagers by suggesting that the wonderful soup they are making from water and common stones would be even more delicious “if only they had a pinch of something else to add to the pot.” The Kingsley kindergartners, like the villagers in the tale, donated potatoes, carrots, brussel sprouts, rutabagas, celery, onions, squash, beans and cabbage that went into the soup. 

“Who wants to cut up vegetables?” Mr. Heite asked his students the day before the Stone Soup celebration.   “I guess I won’t even have to trick you into doing it,” he said, as hands flew up to volunteer.  Like the other kindergartens at Kingsley, Mr. Heite’s was bustling with parent volunteers who helped wash vegetables, demonstrated chopping potatoes with a dinner knife and encouraged students as they colored and cut out headband turkey feathers.

On Tuesday afternoon everyone had a bowl or two of soup.  If vegetable soup was not ordinarily the school cafeteria’s hottest item of the week, one would not know it from this Thanksgiving table.  Five- and 6-year-olds might not always love eating vegetables, but the experience of planning and making the soup together resulted in a table of seemingly very satisfied eaters.

The party was not over just yet.  “Let’s share what we are grateful for,” said Mr. Heite, as he encouraged students to tell the people sitting next to them what they were thankful for.   Next was a song with extravagant hand gestures – and then a final Thanksgiving hug to someone close by.   

It was a Thanksgiving celebration to make most everyone thankful and proud.