By Lindsey Court
Principal and Program Manager, Woodview Learning Centre

The first week of October always brings a list of reasons to celebrate at Woodview Learning Centre. Our students have been showing us lots of signs of a successful transition into a new school year by figuring out their new classroom routines, building new friendships, and finding their place within our school. The change of seasons also brings new excitement to enjoy the fall colours during our many outdoor activities. Already this fall the students have gone to an apple orchard for apple picking, enjoyed watching the leaves change in our own playground, and will soon be heading out on a fall scavenger hunt.

The event that brings the most excitement is our annual FEAST OF FRIENDS celebration! The week leading up to Thanksgiving we cook a traditional lunch feast to share with our students and staff. Woodview Learning Centre has been hosting this annual event since 2004. We have kept this tradition for many reasons:

  • A meeting room is set up as a festive dining hall so we can all eat while enjoying each other’s company.
  • We think it is important for our students and staff to take a moment to give thanks for the special parts of their lives. The students make placemats and write or draw what they are thankful for. Then each of us share what we are thankful for from the past year and listen to all of our friends share their stories.
  • We are always encouraging our students to try new food, especially before a holiday in hopes that this food will be more familiar to them during a family meal later that weekend. Our favourite stories are the ones where a parent is pleasantly surprised when their child reaches for something new at the Thanksgiving table after having been introduced to this new food item during our Feast of Friends event.
  • We are always looking for opportunities to practice table manners such as: waiting our turn, staying in our seat for the whole meal, using a napkin, and asking politely to be excused. All skills that we hope will transfer to their family meals.

A new element to our Feast of Friends this year was how involved our Secondary students were in the event from start to finish! Beforehand, three of our students with their Instructor completed all of our grocery shopping. What a help! The day of our feast, they were in charge of making the stuffing and doing last minute set up of our festive room. Following the feast, one student helped clean our pots and plans. We are so proud of their leadership and willingness to try new tasks. Their help was on the top of my list of special people I am thankful for this year!

The menu included roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey gravy, corn, beans, salad, raw carrots, cheese and crackers, buns, and dinner rolls. Last, and definitely what the students were all waiting for, was dessert! This year we had pumpkin pie, cookies, and a fruit tray. As with every year, when the student came into our festive room they were nervous with the change of lunch rooms and unfamiliar smells. Once everyone found their placemats that they had beautifully decorated, students took their seats and nerves started to settle and excitement filled the air. Everyone took turns sharing what they are thankful for before the feast began. Some students read their placemats and some had it read for them. Staff spoke from the heart, sharing why they are thankful for the opportunity to work with their amazing students. Common themes for the students were family, friends, school, teachers, and their favourite toys and snacks.

Once our ‘thank yous’ were complete everyone lined up to fill their plates. Popular foods were the mashed potatoes, carrots, and cheese and crackers with many students trying everything! One student repeatedly told us enthusiastically “Best lunch ever!”

For the first time ever we had to turn students away when asking for their 3rd full plate of food because too much time had passed and we needed to get back to class. It was a fitting end to a special day. We are already looking forward to next year’s Feast of Friends!