A Hearty Thanksgiving Feast and Candle Centerpiece

By Megan Power on November 20, 2009
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5

Would you like to plan a Thanksgiving feast for your students and their parents? Are you feeling like you can't because of your district's food policy? Well, you still can! A few years ago my district changed their policy on food at school. Now we are only allowed to have store bought food instead of food prepared in students' homes. Because of allergies and other safety reasons, many districts are adopting similar policies. It makes planning celebrations like Thanksgiving feasts more challenging, but they are still possible! With this new policy in effect, take a look at how we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving at school and make a fun candle centerpiece to take home in time for the holiday!


When planning our Thanksgiving feast, I let the students take responsibility for helping plan the event. It provides an perfect opportunity for them to learn about Thanksgiving in a purposeful way. This year in particular, my students had little to no background knowledge on Thanksgiving. I asked them what they have for Thanksgiving dinner and 21 confused faces looked back at me. After interviewing our parents and doing some research, we were able to come up with our menu that had all store bought items.





Our Menu



  1. Prepackaged lunch meat turkey
  2. Microwavable prepackaged mashed potatoes
  3. Microwavable prepackaged sweet potatoes
  4. Bread/ dinner rolls
  5. Peas
  6. Corn
  7. Gravy from a jar
  8. Canned cranberry sauce
  9. Store bought apple pie
  10. Store bought pumpkin pie
  11. Butter (Made in class from shaking heavy cream in a container)


After making our menu, we decided how many students would bring in each item. Then students decided what they wanted to bring in for the feast. A notice was sent home to parents explaining our district policy about store bought food. We are very fortunate that every family was able and happy to bring in their food item. (We are a Title 1 school, meaning that we have a significant amount of lower income families.)

The most difficult part of using prepackaged food is having enough time to microwave them all up in time for the meal. Parent volunteers are always willing to help do this after watching our class Thanksgiving presentation.

Ideas for Thanksgiving Class Presentations

  • The words can be memorized or simplified for students. My kindergartners were easily able to do these. With a partner they wrote the word on the front of construction paper like a sign, decorated it with markers, and glued the words on the back. We went down the line with students reading their 1-3 construction paper parts.
  • Share student writing about what they are thankful for
  • Sing Thanksgiving songs

  • Our Candle Centerpiece Craft Project

  • IMG_0481

    This craft project is a must do! Every year that I have done this, the parents and students absolutely loved them.


    1. A plastic container for each student (butter, cream cheese, and sour cream containers work great) If timing is tight you can use Solo cups as well. 
    2. Different fall colored beans such as pinto beans, small red beans, black beans and lima beans
    3. A big container to mix up the beans
    4. Elmer's glue
    5. Popsicle stick for each student to use to stir the mixture
    6. A candle for each student


    1. Mix up the beans in a large container.
    2. Have each child's name on their container.
    3. Pour some glue into the bottom of the container
    4. Add beans about half way.
    5. Add more glue.
    6. Stir making sure to coat all the beans with glue. I tell my students to make sure to touch the bottom with their popsicle stick.
    7. Once students have coated beans, add some more beans and glue to get about 2/3 the way full.
    8. Have parents volunteers help students coat all the beans with glue. This is the toughest part!
    9. Place the candle in the center and even out the beans around it.
    10. Add a little more glue around the top of the beans.
    11. Let it dry overnight.
    12. To take them out, squeeze around the outside to help it release from the container. Then use scissors to cut and peel the container off.
    13. Be sure to label the students' names on the bottom of the candles.

    I always get great feedback on this project. It's a lot of work for the students with all the stirring, but these projects help them begin to understand how hard life was for the Pilgrims and Native Americans and it helps them appreciate the meaning of this important Thanksgiving meal.

    As the holiday approaches, I want to share that I am very thankful for my readers and your wonderful contributors to my blog. Please post any Thanksgiving ideas here so that other teachers can enjoy them and use them in their classrooms! Thank you and have a wonderful holiday!


I too do a feast with store bought items as well, except I cook a turkey breast the night before. I also have the students bring in items (dry cereals, marshmallows, raisins, m&m's - plain), to make a trail mix and they graph their mix before eating it. We also make Indian headbands, necklaces strung with noodles and hats/bonnets to wear the day of the feast. I do like the ABC's of Thanksgiving.

It sounds like a very exciting time! Thank you for sharing the wonderful things you are doing in your classroom. I hope we hear from you again! Smiles, Megan

Love your comments about allergies in school and the classroom. Our school doesn't have rules about food, but my classroom does because of food allergies in the classroom. It is good to show parents that it doesn't have to be hard. But that it does need to be serious when such allergies are a concern.

I also posted my own design for a great Thanksgiving t-shirt project for those that are doing programs. It gets a good laugh. ;)


I took a look at your Turkey T-shirts. They are adorable. I have done those handprints on paper before. I love the "Eat Chicken" on the back. Your students must have loved wearing them! You are right about the allergy concerns! There are so many these days, but you can still have fun at holiday time! Happy Thanksgiving! Smiles, Megan

Hi Megan!

I love this activity! I wish our students were on session during November to do this! Have a great Thanksgiving!


Eric, Thanks for your comment. Enjoy your time off and have a wonderful Thanksgiving! Smiles, Megan

Another thought - When will you be posting ideas for winter holidays? I would love to see your ideas!

Great question. I was trying to figure that out myself. I need to do some of them to get some pictures to post. I will be out of school for 3 days next week so I am going to say the following week. I would love to hear some of your great ideas as well! Smiles, Megan

I love the idea for the feast Megan! My class is going to be making Friendship Stew. Each student is bringing in a canned food to put into our pot. This is basically vegetable soup. We are symbolizing the significance between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims helping each other during the first Thanksgiving. Extra cans will be donated to our local food pantry. Thanks for the wonderful craft ideas!

What a wonderful idea! Thank you for sharing that. I have made Stone Soup like that before, but I love this idea of Friendship Soup and donating the extra cans! Happy Thanksgiving! Smiles, Megan

Post a Comment
(Please sign in to leave a comment. Privacy Policy)
RSS Subscribe ButtonSign up to get these great teaching ideas delivered automatically.Subscribe now >