Friday, November 07, 2008

New England Cranberries

It will come as no surprise the we are in the process of changing our election bulletin board in the library hallway to a Thanksgiving theme. The Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian sent us a handsome and informative poster that we will feature along with an illustrated glossary of harvest terms from 4C, now studying Indian cultures. In fourth grade library classes this week we read the book Cranberry Day: A Wampanoag Harvest Celebration, published by the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) Education Department, Martha's Vineyard. We then examined other materials in the library containing information about Wampanoag culture or about cranberries.

The history of cranberries as a valued fruit in New England is long and interesting. Back in the 1600s Indian children welcomed the tart crunch of fresh berries as they harvested them, and families dried them in cakes in order to preserve them as an important, nutritious part of their winter diet. Our fourth graders tasted and compared fresh and dried cranberries in the library and came up with a variety of adjectives to describe the raw berries: tart, bitter, crisp, even smoky! We learned that today Massachusetts ranks second after Michigan as a commercial producer of cranberries, and we learned that it is fairly easy to see a cranberry bog on Boston's south shore or Cape Cod if you go in search of one. Meanwhile, the library is conducting its 40th annual Cranberry Counting Contest, providing the opportunity to practice estimation skills!