Thanksgiving Lessons Learned, Shared by Students


Smouse Opportunity School marked the 35th year of its Thanksgiving feast for students, families, staff and community partners.

The first snowfall of the season couldn’t have fallen on a better day. Like whipped cream on pumpkin pie, it made for a prefect trimming on a holiday feast like the traditional one served on Friday at Smouse for the 35th consecutive year. It may not go back quite as far as the original dinner party between Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians at Plymouth Rock, but the Smouse Feast IS longstanding and a fine local mood-setter as well.

It started in 1981 as a way for teachers of students with severe disabilities to engage parents in a more social setting. The original menu was staff-prepared stew. The event immediately caught on and expanded to the whole school and a full, traditional menu. For some years it was made possible by community goodwill and donations. Now it’s prepared by the district’s own foodservice staff. On a typical day the Smouse cafeteria serves a hundred lunches or less. For feast day the school orders 300+ meals.


From shopping to cooking to celebrating, students in an Adult Living class at Lincoln High School marked the Thanksgiving holiday.

People come from all over the district. Superintendent Tom Ahart was there on Friday and so was School Board President Rob Barron.

And yes, so was the pumpkin pie, dolloped with whipped cream. Lunch isn’t usually served with dessert but on this particular day the meal wouldn’t have been complete without it.

A similar menu was wafting down the hallway from Room 2160 at Lincoln High on Monday morning where Victor Wickert’s Special Education Adult Living class was preparing a feast fit for – themselves!

10:15 AM might be a tad early for some folks to sit down to their turkey and gravy but in this case it was right on time. The class had two hours to set the table, prep the meal, eat it and clean up by 11:10. Sixth block ends at 10:30 and is followed by RAILS Time at Lincoln but on Monday, for Wickert’s class, RAILS Time was chowtime!

Their turkey was prepared offsite but otherwise the students planned a holiday menu and the grocery list it would require. Last Thursday they took a DART bus to the Southridge Hy-Vee and purchased the necessary food.

Another class, Service Learning, prepared placements and decorations for the table settings.

“These kids planned, purchased, prepared and participated in the meal,” Wickert said. “They have done a wonderful job and I am proud of them.”

There is that old adage about too many cooks but Wickert was having none of that in his classroom kitchen.

“It’s a learning experience,” he said as the finishing touches were applied. “However this turns out it’s going to be good for them.”

And then dinner was served. While the students gobbled their classwork Wickert cued up the presidential proclamation that formally established Thanksgiving as a national holiday on his whiteboard. It was the school’s namesake, Abraham Lincoln, who authored that document and Wickert’s recitation of it made for a table blessing that rang as apropos in 2015 as it was in 1864. Give it a read before you gather around your table later in the week.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Photos of Smouse’s Thanksgiving Feast

Photos of Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Class

Published on