Thanksgiving Thematic Unit Ideas Social Studies

Thanksgiving History and Geography.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach elementary kids some American history right along with a good dose of geography. Clever art projects can be incorporated into lessons to help children understand and appreciate our country’s early beginnings.

The Mayflower’s Journey

globe

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to teach the continents and oceans. Use globe and map worksheets to discuss how the Pilgrims left England on the continent of Europe to cross the Atlantic Ocean and settle in a new land in North America.  Learning about the globe is more meaningful when connected to this lesson in history.

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Mayflower Craft Project

This mayflower craft project will inspire learning fun facts about the Mayflower’s journey. According to ability, students can research and list amazing facts or write reports about the journey, like how long it took, what they ate and drank, and more. Need sentences for grammar and mechanics practice? Use the facts as sentences on worksheets.

Materials:

  • brown paper lunch bag
  • straw
  • white paper
  • glue
  • a little play dough

How to make:

Cut a boat shape out of a brown paper bag. Cut so the fold in the bag is on the bottom and it will stand up. Anchor a drinking straw in the middle with a wad of play dough. Cut holes in the white rectangle sails with a hole punch. Thread them onto the straw. Filling the boat with shredded paper bag will fluff it out and help it stand.

Thanksgiving History and Life in the Colonies

Maps of the first colonies help blend geography and history. Students learn the name and location of the 13 original colonies that eventually sprang up thanks to the Pilgrims’ voyage.

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Making a Hornbook

Studying life in the colonies fascinates students. Teach them about the one-room school and how they used hornbooks. Hornbooks were made of wood. They displayed the alphabet, numerals,  and bible verses. Young students wore them around their neck.

Materials:

  • construction paper
  • glue
  • marker
  • hole puncher
  • string

How to make

Cut a hornbook shape from light and dark brown paper. Students use markers to write letters and numbers. Punch a hole in the hornbook’s handle for a string.

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 Thanksgiving History and the Native Americans

Native American tribes are divided into regions. Learning the regions can be incorporated into US map skills. Older students will like doing research to learn the names of the different tribes in each region.

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Thanksgiving History Totem Pole Project

Totem poles are so interesting! They were made by the Pacific Coastal Indians mostly from redwood. They used natural dyes to make paint and painted pictures of animals and nature to tell stories. They were like “books” to these early tribes. Students can construct their own totem poles and write a story about them. Help them look up images of totem poles for ideas.

Materials:

  • empty paper towel roll
  • colored construction paper
  • glue
  • scissors

How to Make:

Cut out shapes from construction paper. Students can use them to make totem pole images. Glue strips of paper around the “totem pole” and then add features. Older or more capable students can cut out their shapes.

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Native American Dreamcatcher Project

Pretty dreamcatchers were fashioned by Native Americans and hung above where they slept. They believed dreams were filtered by the colorful webs and bad dreams were trapped in them. What better way is there than this for inspiration to write about good and bad dreams kids remember. An interesting way to deal with dreams!

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Materials:

  • paper plates
  • craft feathers
  • plastic craft beads
  • skein of multi-colored yard
  • hole puncher

How to Make:

Cut paper plate so it is only a rim. Punch evenly spaced holes in the rim. Students thread the yarn on a bobby pin to act as a needle. They then lace the yarn through. Add a few beads and tie a knot to hold them in place.  Punch a few holes closely together at the bottom. Add strings and use hot glue to glue on craft feathers.

Books For Learning About Early America


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