Many of us grew up with school Thanksgiving celebrations that consisted of making head dresses, Pilgrim hats and turkeys out of construction paper. Some of the more progressive teachers may have asked us to write lists of things that we were thankful for or to imagine what it was like for the Pilgrims coming to America.
But, times have changed. Our children are growing up in a world that is far more diverse and culturally aware than in any time in history.
As 21st century educators, we are well aware of the misrepresentation of the native people as well as an overwhelming amount of inaccurate information about the events that took place on that very first Thanksgiving Day.
We have sifted through the great wealth of online Thanksgiving curriculum resources to find the most thought-provoking, culturally sensitive lesson plans to use in your class room.
- You are the Historian is an award-winning lesson plan designed by Plimoth Plantation. Students take an interactive journey through history and play historic detective in order to figure out what really happened at the first Thanksgiving Dinner. Along the way, they will learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home.
- The Learning Network provides a list of helpful resources to engage your students in Project Based Learning activities dealing with the realities of hunger in America. This is especially important around Thanksgiving, a time when many of us are celebrating a bounty of food that is just not the reality for many Americans.
- The American Indians Children’s Literature website put out a list of books to help children learn about Native Americans. These can be read around Thanksgiving, but are even more effective when integrated into your curriculum year- round.
- Story Corp does an incredible yearly project in which high school students are asked to record an interview with an elder during Thanksgiving weekend. Your students can participate or just listen to the rich oral history that has already been collected.
- National Museum of the American Indian provides a Native Perspective on Thanksgiving, complete with history lessons, a colorful poster, and some great ideas to use in the classroom.
- Scholastic: The First Thanksgiving provides students with letters written from the historical perspective of a Pilgrim girl and a Wampanoag boy living in the New World. If you sign up by November 14, your classroom will receive all of the letters together on November 17.
- Indian Education for All has created an in-depth lesson plan that provides students with a more accurate understanding of the events that led up to the celebration of the first Thanksgiving. The lesson plan was written for grades 5-8, but can be adapted for both older and younger students.
- Readwritethink.org provides a lesson plan in which students are presented with common myths about the first Thanksgiving and asked to do a thorough exploration into the truth behind each myth. The lesson is geared towards grades 6-8.
- The Library of Congress has a collection of primary resources including the original Proclamation for the First Thanksgiving, a letter from George Washington, and paintings of historical events that occurred during that period in American history.
- Teaching Tolerance presents a collection of resources and activities to help students understand how, what can be a holiday for some Americans, is actually a day of mourning for others. This can be an especially powerful lesson in teaching kids about perspective and empathy.
The Teacher’s Academy is proud to provide you with these and other educational resources for your classroom, along with an extensive catalog of online Professional Development courses. Check out our affordable course list and find a class that is right for you!