The First Thanksgiving: The Pilgrim’s Journey

old world map and compass instrument
Photo Source: Nikolay Okhitin

If you were to ask your students what Thanksgiving is all about, they'd most likely cite answers such as "turkey", "family", or "thankfulness". While all of these answers are appropriate, it's also important for your kindergartners to understand the historical significance of this national holiday. What better way to do this than to start at the beginning and teach them about the Pilgrim's journey to the New World?

Voyage on the Mayflower

Lesson Objectives

  • Learn about what life was like on the Mayflower. (e.g. the Pilgrims were forced to stay below deck in crowded living quarters, autumn storms made the trip perilous, etc.)
  • Learn how long it took the Pilgrims to reach the New World.
  • Discuss what it must have been like to leave everything familiar (friends, family, belongings) to go on this journey.
  • Introduce the Mayflower Compact (e.g. what it was, why it was needed, etc.)
  • Discuss the Pilgrim's living conditions once disembarking the Mayflower.

Scholastic has put together great interactive resources to compliment these learning objectives. On their website, you'll be able to tour the Mayflower as a class, chart the progress of the Pilgrim's journey west with a map and narration, explore interviews with passengers to understand what the journey was like, and learn about the Mayflower Compact through a fun reader's theater.

If you feel some of the resources and activities provided may be a bit advanced for your students, they can easily be adapted to different skill levels!