While many students are looking ahead to Christmas and Hanukkah, complete with presents and a vacation from school, several students in the bilingual program at John Muir Elementary School are still marveling at what, for them, is a brand new holiday: Thanksgiving.

Many of the bilingual students at the Hoffman Estates elementary school celebrated Thanksgiving this year for the first time.

“Not all of them knew what Thanksgiving was … some of them came from Mexico, and they had no idea,” said Addin Jimenez, who teaches a multi-age bilingual class at Muir.

Jimenez teaches 22 second- and third-graders, who all speak Spanish as a primary language.

Along with teaching the students math and English, Jimenez introduces and helps the bilingual students understand American culture.

The class began learning about the voyage of the Pilgrims to the New World and traditions of Native Americans in early November.

“We compared the real story of Pocohantas and the Walt Disney movie,” Jimenez said. “They were surprised at the differences. The kids decided they liked the real story better.”

Over the month, students also prepared for a Thanksgiving feast held in their classroom Nov. 22.

Students practiced lines for a play about the Pilgrims’ journey to America. They also made moccasins and dream catchers, Native American good-luck charms.

“When a baby was born, Native American mothers made the dream catcher and hung them on top of beds, and newly married couples also got them for good luck,” Jimenez explained.

They made Native American vests from paper bags and Pilgrims hats from construction paper.

Parents and Muir’s first-grade bilingual class also joined the class for a feast of two turkeys with all the trimmings.

Students performed their much-rehearsed play and sang “Holla, Senor Pavo,” which translates to “Hello, Mr. Turkey,” for their guests.

“The kids really learned a lot,” she said.

Next, the students will learn about Christmas in America.

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