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MITCH third-graders become Vikings for a day

The kids celebrate a Scandinavian Christmas with ice skating and traditional food and crafts
by: Jonathan House, INSIDE THE POPPERS — MITCH third-grader Jack Klin (right) excitedly watches as Jonathan Irving opens a gift that was inside his popper during a Scandinavian Christmas celebration.

SHERWOOD - How do Scandinavians celebrate Christmas?

Some skate on frozen ponds and then warm up in front of a roaring fire, eating traditional dishes and making seasonal crafts.

Tigard MITCH Charter School third-graders followed those same traditions Dec. 1, when they went ice skating at the Sherwood Ice Arena before returning to teacher Diane Wright's Sherwood farm for a taste of a Scandinavian Christmas.

'Only about four hadn't skated before, and after two hours, most were skating,' Wright said. 'They gave it a good shot.'

Back at the farm, there was a roaring fire in the bright red wood stove, and the room was festooned with a bare Christmas tree waiting to be decorated plus strings of lights around the room.

A buffet table decorated with Swedish angel chimes was loaded with food made by students' moms that included Swedish meatballs, ham, cranberries, cheese, rye bread, salad and cookies.

The kids have been working on their Viking unit for the past several weeks, according to Wright, studying such historic figures as Eric the Red and 'Lucky Leif' Ericksson.

In this case, the Raiders doesn't refer to the local band with Paul Revere but the fear-inspiring, violence-prone Vikings, who pillaged and plundered their way around Northern Europe.

The kids were especially interested in the Berserkers (from where the current word 'berserk' comes from), who chewed on their shields and scared victims in advance of the soldiers.

'I learned about Leif Eriksson, Erik the Red's son,' said Abbey Abell. 'Erik the Red had a very hot temper. Leif was thoughtful and calm, and he explored Finland. The Vikings came from Scandinavia.'

Sierra Milam added, 'The Vikings were big Berserkers. They bit their own shields.'

On another subject, Krista Woo explained, 'The Viking houses were long, and each side had a stool or bench that they slept and ate on, and they hung their belongings on hooks. They had a fire in the center of the house. They weren't very nice to other people, but they were nice to their family.'

Katy Warren focused on the deeds of the Vikings, saying, 'They were raiders. They would hold people for ransom. To fight, they used weapons like scramsaxes, swords and battle axes.'

Claire Atwood elaborated by adding, 'The Vikings kidnapped other people. They were nice to their own family. Their teeth were all gold - they never brushed their teeth.'

When everyone was through eating, the children, seated at several round tables with wreaths and burning candles in the middle, held poppers between each other. On the count of three, they pulled and tugged until the poppers made a big noise and came apart.

Inside were paper crowns colored purple, raspberry, green or yellow plus a small gift. Students got either a key chain, a miniature deck of cards in a small metal box, a sewing kit, a compass or a mystery stopper-type object that none of the moms could identify.

'I think the poppers are more English than Scandinavian, but it fit in with what we are doing,' said Wright, who added that she was teaching the Viking unit for the first time this school year.

Students then passed out cookies for everyone to enjoy before craft time started.

'We will set up a station at every table, and you can move around between the tables to do a craft at each one,' Wright told the students.

At one table, students squirted frosting onto gingerbread men to take home, and at another table, they cut out and fit together heart decorations.

At another table, students could string together cranberries or popcorn (which was harder than it looked).

'Poke through the cranberries, but be careful with the needles,' Wright said. 'That's what they did in Scandinavia and still do. You can also use the decorations you made yesterday plus the ones you make today and decorate the tree or take them home.'

Students had previously made Viking ship ornaments, which fit right in with the Scandinavian theme.

At the end of the day, the students were happy but tired after living the lives of Vikings.