YORKTOWN, N.Y.-This past Thursday, the students at Yorktown Community Nursery School danced, whooped, made pots from clay and ground corn on stone as part of the school’s annual Native American Day. 

A tradition at the school since 2000, the day is a celebration of the history and culture of the local Native American tribes that once inhabited the Yorktown area.

For the day, the school was completely remade as a Native American village, with 10 different stations throughout its rooms, each one designed to teach something about the Native American experience. The students moved from station to station, learning how to create paint using crushed berries, slice apples to make applesauce and share stories in an actual longhouse (although the day’s weather necessitated a move from the longhouse to an indoor teepee).

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“It’s a culmination of a whole unit they had, studying the Native Americans that lived here,” said Maribeth Fay, the school’s director. “It makes it more tangible for them. They can smell it, they can feel it, they can hear it in the music. They can really get immersed in what it was like to live in Yorktown many, many, many years ago.”

Native American Day is planned with meticulous research into the traditions and customs of the local tribes.

“We tried to keep it authentic to what they had in this area,” Fay said. “Through research, we found all the different things that were used locally around here. Things like how they had to use canoes to fish and use berries and nuts for painting.”

Over the years, Native American Day has grown to become a popular event at the school for both kids and parents alike.

“It’s one of the favorite events that we have at the school,” Fay said. “All the parents work together in advance to make all of the projects that we do here, and they also volunteer the day of. We couldn’t do it without them.”

And, Fay noted, in that participation, the kids learn another valuable lesson.

“It’s all about community,” she said. “And how we all work together to make something happen.”