Children celebrate Thanksgiving and build community with Stone Soup

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 12:30pm
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Children from the Blue Door classroom at Children's House listen raptly as their teacher, Jackie Grannis-Phoenix, talks about Stone Soup before the feast begins.

Turkey and pie are still a day away, but the students at Camden’s Children’s House Montessori School gave thanks Tuesday, with their traditional preparation of Stone Soup.

In the old folk tale, a trio of hungry travellers convinces reticent villagers to contribute food to a simmering soup.  Stones are the base, the travellers insist, though a few carrots, or a chunk of meat, or a cup of barley would make delicious additions.  Before they know it, the villagers have come together, and their simple stone soup has become a feast.  “A rich man’s soup – and all from a few stones,” they exclaim.  “It seemed like magic!”

Camden Montessori students have been preparing their own magical “stone soup” for decades.  “The Stone Soup tradition is such a perfect fit for Montessori because it’s all about building community, cooperating, and sharing,” said Lead Teacher Jackie Grannis-Phoenix. 

The lessons of Stone Soup do seem made for Montessori.  The Practical Life curriculum includes food preparation, and even the three-year-olds scrubbed and peeled and chopped vegetables this week.  Setting a table and sharing a meal fits into Grace and Courtesy.  Primary students drew, wrote, and spoke about what they’re thankful for, and they listened and retold the story of Stone Soup.  As with the rest of the Montessori curriculum, the elementary students take those lessons even further.  This year, the 1st-4th graders performed a Stone Soup play after their feast.

And of course, there is the soup itself.  “It’s one of those times that, in order for it to work, everyone has to contribute,” said Grannis-Phoenix.  “It’s the work of their hands, and together they make something so much tastier than any one person could create alone.”

The primary students, who range in age from three to six, know exactly why that soup is so delicious.  “After we retell the story, I tell them that’s there’s one more ingredient that goes into the soup, and that it’s actually the most important ingredient of all,” said Grannis-Phoenix.  “And there’s this earnest chorus – LOVE!  They absolutely get it.”

Before the broth and the carrots and everything else went in, each child took a turn holding the heart-shaped stone that started the soup, pressing in their love and their thanks. 

“Creating global citizens is a huge part of Montessori,” said Administrative Director Kristin Sidwell.  “The story of Stone Soup really does inspire our children to do good in the world.”