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Pilgrims Lesson for Kids

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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.

Pilgrims and Thanksgiving Lesson

Pilgrims and Thanksgiving Lesson

This is the third lesson in a series of 28 hands-on lessons covering American History through 1865. This lesson focuses on the Pilgrims. Children will learn about the Pilgrims and Squanto, plant corn, eat popcorn & turkey, and create a Thanksgiving notebook page. I used this plan while teaching a 45 minute history class for children in Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grades. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, family, after-school program, or co-op!

Weekly Biography Presentations: Squanto

Weekly Biography Presentations: Squanto

Weekly Biography Report & Presentation: Squanto

1. Squanto Biography Report: Each week a child will do a 2-3 minute presentation on someone we’re learning about that week. This week we will be hearing about Squanto.

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness

Review of Last Week & Mayflower Trip

2. Review: When Columbus and his crew sailed to America in 1492, who was already living in America? (American Indians/Native Americans) Eventually more people wanted to come to this New World of America. England started sending over people to live here in places they called colonies. What was England's first successful colony? (Jamestown) When you hear Jamestown, which 2 people should you remember? (Pocahontas & John Smith) Who can tell me something else about John Smith? (Answers will vary) Who can tell me something about Pocahontas? (Answers will vary)

3. Today we're going to learn about the Pilgrims. Does anyone know the name of the ship they sailed on to come to America? (Mayflower). We’re going to all squeeze together like the Pilgrims did in the hull of the Mayflower. Squeeze together in this corner. (Make sure the children are squished in.)

4. Read Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness about Pilgrims and Mayflower voyage.


  • Three Young Pilgrims by Cheryl Harness or other book on the Pilgrims

5. After reading, ask the children how they enjoyed sitting all cooped up. This is what the Pilgrims experienced for months at sea among feeling seasick and having to smell other people who had gotten sea sick.

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas

Squanto & Corn

6. Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in America, set up in what is now Virginia, in 1607. The Separatists (who we now call the Pilgrims) set up the second permanent English settlement in America in 1621 in what is today Massachusetts. They had a really difficult time, didn't they? Who can tell me something you remember from the book about one of the difficulties the Pilgrims had.

7. Today [child's name who did the report] told us all about a Native American named Squanto. When you think of the Pilgrims, I want you to remember Squanto. Quickly summarize his life as you flip through the pictures in the book Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas. Three main facts to know about Squanto include: 1) When he was a boy, he'd been kidnapped and taken to Europe. 2) While there, he became a Christian and learned English, so he was able to help the Pilgrims after they arrived in America. 3) He might have taught the Pilgrims how to plant maize, which is like corn.


  • Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas or other book on Squanto
"Planting" corn in a wet paper towel in a bag

"Planting" corn in a wet paper towel in a bag

What the sprouted corn looked like 1 week later

What the sprouted corn looked like 1 week later

8. Plant corn. Add a paper towel, 1-3 corn kernels, and enough water to make the paper towel moist. Close the baggie. You can tell parents they can transfer the corn kernel to potting soil when they get home or after it has begun to sprout.

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  • Sandwich bag
  • Paper towel
  • 1-3 corn kernels from seed packet (or popcorn kernels, which is what we used)
  • Water
Eating popcorn and turkey to remember what was eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal

Eating popcorn and turkey to remember what was eaten at the first Thanksgiving meal

Thanksgiving Meal

9. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." The Pilgrims wanted to thank God for both the difficult times they had the first year and to praise God for his blessings upon them the second year. What do you like to eat on Thanksgiving? (Allow children to answer.) What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving? The Wampanoag brought deer. The Pilgrims killed some fowl, probably turkeys. They each got a bit of cornmeal. We're not sure exactly what else they ate. Let’s eat some popcorn to remind us of that corn which Squanto had helped them plant and some turkey.


  • Popped pop corn
  • Deli turkey slices
  • Napkins, bowls, or cups for serving

Notebook Page & Review

10. Pass out a map of the United States. Have children color in Massachusetts, which is where the Pilgrims settled. Also point out Virginia, the site of Jamestown colony.


11. Pass out the lapbook page showing a Native American and a Pilgrim from the below link. Have children cut out the rectangle, fold over the sides, and glue it to the back of the U.S. Map. Ask who they think the Native American might be. (maybe Squanto) As they color the 2 pictures, walk around the room and allow the children to each dictate to you something they learned about the Pilgrims and/or the first Thanksgiving. Write it inside their booklet. If children are older, they can do that themselves or can draw in a picture.


12. Review: Which group of people did we learn about today? (Separatists or Pilgrims) What's the name of they ship they sailed on? (Mayflower) Who helped them? (Squanto) Name something you learned about Squanto. (Answers will vary but someone should mention helping them learn to plant corn) What food do we know they ate at their first Thanksgiving meal? (deer, fowl/turkey, corn meal)

13. Assign next week's biography presentation: William Penn.

We read through huge stacks of books and these were our favorite (in addition to the 2 used in the lesson):

  • Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation (The Time-Traveling Twins) by Diane Stanley,
  • You Wouldn't Want to Sail on the Mayflower!: A Trip That Took Entirely Too Long by Peter Cook,
  • The Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving (Graphic History) by Mary Englar (and also look for The Mayflower from the same Graphic History series),
  • On The Mayflower by Kate Waters,
  • Sarah Morton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl by Kate Waters,
  • Samuel Eaton's Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy by Kate Waters, and
  • Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy In Pilgrim Times by Kate Waters.

Optional Homework: Memorize a History Sentence Song About the Pilgrims

Nest Entertainment: Our Favorite Video on William Bradford for Younger Children

Image credit: http://lumdimsum .com/2012/11/22/on-thanksgiving-thank-goodness-were-not-turkeys/

Image credit: http://lumdimsum .com/2012/11/22/on-thanksgiving-thank-goodness-were-not-turkeys/

Native Americans & Columbus Lesson
Jamestown Lesson
Pilgrims Lesson
Thirteen Colonies Lesson
French and Indian War Lesson
Colonial Period & Revolution Rumblings Lesson
Boston Massacre & Boston Tea Party Lesson
First Shots & Declaration of Independence Lesson
American War for Independence Battles Lesson
Valley Forge & Battle of Yorktown Lesson
American Literature Lesson & American War for Independence Review
Colonial Christmas Party
Constitution Lesson
Three Branches of Government Lesson
President George Washington Lesson
Louisiana Purchase Lesson
War of 1812 Lesson
Monroe Doctrine Lesson
Trail of Tears Lesson
Oregon Trail & Battle of Alamo Lesson
California Gold Rush & Pony Express Lesson
American Industrial Revolution Lesson
Underground Railroad Lesson
Abolitionists & Women Suffragists Lesson
Civil War: The Confederate States & Abraham Lincoln Lesson
Civil War Battles Lesson
Civil War Party & End of Year Review Game
Fun, Free Hands-on Unit Studies (My Lessons in All Subjects)

© 2018 Shannon


Shannon (author) from Florida on July 19, 2018:

That is very interesting that American Studies are becoming more popular in the UK!

Liz Westwood from UK on July 19, 2018:

Your lessons are definitely broadening my knowledge of American history. In the UK, as with most other places, our history lessons are focused very much on the UK. Information about the history of other countries is either picked up by chance or by doing further studies. Degree courses in American Studies have become much more popular and available here in recent years.

Shannon (author) from Florida on July 17, 2018:

Thank you so much!

Liz Westwood from UK on July 17, 2018:

I have learned a lot from reading this article.

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