KEATING — Making fresh butter takes some work.

Just ask Clara Jonas.

“We had to shake it really long,” she says.

Clara barely finishes her sentence before Ava Mason chimes in.

“A long, long, long time,” she says.

Clara and Ava are first graders at Keating Elementary School, in the Keating Valley about 15 miles northeast of Baker City.

On Monday, Nov. 22, they and their schoolmates made a Thanksgiving feast from scratch.

Keating School, with students from preschool to sixth grade, has an enrollment of 25 this year.

Not too long ago, this week of Thanksgiving would see the school full of children and adults for the annual holiday meal prepared by the PTO for the students and local residents.

But COVID restrictions affected the community event in 2020, and this year as well.

Instead, Keating staff — Principal Amanda Wilde, teacher Toni Myers and paraprofessional Debbie Radle — shrunk the event to just the school, and involved every student in the preparation of the traditional feast.

“We decided, why not just do it with the kids?” Wilde said.

But “shrunk” doesn’t mean “small” — the turkey, donated by a neighbor, weighed 30 pounds and had to be split between two roasters.

“We have such an invested community,” Wilde said.

The meal preparation was divided between grades:

• Kindergarten: corn

• First: rolls

• Second: gravy

• Third: pumpkin pie

• Fifth: stuffing

• Sixth: mashed potatoes

(The school doesn’t have any fourth graders this year.)

Everyone, regardless of grade, was involved with the cleanup.

“It’s part of cooking,” Myers said with a smile.

The kitchen is in the school’s basement, and Myers worked with each group as lunchtime neared.

“They’ve been so excited all morning,” Myers said as she pulled pots and pans from the cupboards, and the scent of roasted turkey filled the room.

Two kindergartners tackled the task of opening cans of corn — the vegetable of choice based on a school vote.

“I’ve never gotten to open a can before,” Wren Lyon said as Myers hooked an opener on the lid of the can.

As students took turns in the kitchen, the others worked on their “thankful” posters. One space, for favorite food, was filled with “pizza” on many designs.

Except Clara’s, which declared elk steak as her favorite meal.

“I love to hunt,” she said.

The students in grades 3 and 6 prepared the long table after a lesson on a proper table setting.

On top of each homemade placemat — made with woven strips of construction paper — was a name card, a plate, a napkin, a cup, a fork on the left and a knife on the right. Each place also got a baby food jar full of fresh, homemade butter.

Then it was time to eat.

Each grade took a turn through the line, saying “yes, please” or “no, thank you” for each item, served by Myers and the sixth graders.

When everyone’s plate was heaped with food, Wilde and Myers said a few words before the students dug in to their meal.

“I’m so proud of you guys — we haven’t gotten to do this for a while,” Wilde said. “We’re so thankful for you. We’re your teachers, but you teach us something new every day.”

Then it was Myers’ turn.

“You mean so much to us,” she said. “Thank you for being so amazing.”

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