By MAGGIE GEBHARDT

mgebhardt@dailynews.net

There were 71 excited kindergartners ready to sing and show thanks at Wilson Elementary School on Monday.

The school hosted its annual kindergarten Thanksgiving program at the elementary school gym. Families gathered to observe and support their little ones as they performed songs of Thanksgiving that portrayed their general understanding of the holiday's history.

The kindergarten class prepared for weeks and spent much of Monday morning conducting run-throughs.

"They have been practicing for the program for a while," said Tom Meagher, principal at Wilson.

Dressed up as little pilgrims and American Indians, carrying personally made paper turkeys, the students scanned the audience for family members as they proudly entered the gymnasium.

"I think it's good for them to get practice, getting up in front of others and in a group," Meagher said. "It also teaches them about our country and our heritage in a fun way."

Under the direction of Gloria Blackwell, music teacher at Wilson, the kindergarten class began by performing a song about the life of a turkey. They used hand gestures as they waved their paper turkey.

The turkeys were cut out and colored by the students, so they were able to proudly show off their own personalized artwork at the program.

"It gives them a chance to show their parents what they've been working on," Meagher said.

The children performed songs about pilgrims and Indians, showing the audience what they had learned about the history of Thanksgiving and the storyline behind the holiday.

"The parents love seeing their kids up there as part of a group," Meagher said. "It's exciting for them to see the artwork their children have worked on and to hear about all of the things they have been learning."

Smiling faces gleamed within the crowd as proud parents listened to their children sing about everything they were thankful for. The kindergartners gave thanks for friends, family, the earth and Thanksgiving food.

"This program is good for the kids because it helps them break out of their shells a little bit," said Kayla Acosta, mother of Kaylen.

Acosta said as a parent, there are things she looks forward to with events such as the Thanksgiving program.

"There is always something silly that goes on during the performance," she said. "It never fails."

Lori Davidson, the mother of Tyler, said her son was most excited his mom was coming to watch him sing.

"He was really happy that I was coming," she said. "I love seeing all of the kids up there singing and smiling."

Davidson agreed a program such as this greatly influences the children in positive ways.

"I think, socially, they develop so much by experiencing something like this," she said. "It's good for them to be in front of everyone."

After the last song, the performance came to a close, and the students shouted "Happy Thanksgiving" as they waved to the crowd with smiling, thankful faces.