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The Thanksgiving Story: The Pilgrims Revisited

The Internet is full of useful materials for exploding myths about the Pilgrims, the Indians, the Mayflower, and the First Thanksgiving. Whether you teach kindergarten or college, you'll find valuable information and teaching tools on the WWW. This week, Education World explores the best of those online resources.

As another Thanksgiving approaches, are you looking for new ways to present the same old stories? Look no further! Education World has found a variety of Web sites that provide fascinating information about the hearts and minds of the faceless historical figures behind this traditional American holiday...

Go right to the source!

What better place to begin a search for fresh information about Thanksgiving than at Plymouth Colony -- the place where the Pilgrims' lives in the New World began? Nowhere are 

those lives more real, more visible, or more current than at Plimoth-on-Web, an online living-history museum of 17th century Plymouth, Massachusetts. This Plimoth Plantation site allows visitors to tour the 1627 Pilgrim Village of New Plymouth, to see, as well as read about, the lives of the Pilgrims. In this authentic reproduction of the Pilgrim's Massachusetts settlement, you can stroll down the town's first main street, read the plans of the original "zoning board," and view the houses of the early English settlers. Or you might want to attend the March Cattle Division to learn how property was distributed among the colony's residents.

The site, however, is much more than a brief walk through Plymouth. In addition to the virtual tour, the site provides an abundance of historical information about Plymouth Colony, the Mayflower, the Pilgrims, and the local Indians. Visitors can read the Mayflower Compact , study a list of the Mayflower's passengers , and learn why they set off on their voyage. Your students can learn about the Pilgrims' height and average life span and see the clothing of both Pilgrims and Wampanoag Indians. Here, you'll discover the real story behind The Courtship of Miles Standish and learn such Pilgrim Trivia as the names of Plymouth Colony's first governor and its first baby.

In the unlikely event that you still haven't found what you're looking for, the site contains a variety of educational resources, including a Library with an extensive list of bibliographies and links; a Resource Room full of downloadable materials for teachers and students; a list of Educational Publications available for classroom use; and a Kids' Page that contains Pilgrim games and riddles, a Pilgrim picture to color, and fun facts about Pilgrim children.

If you're looking for extensive . . .

But perhaps the most comprehensive source of information about the Mayflower and its passengers can be found at Caleb Johnson's Mayflower Web Pages. Visitors to this site get a fascinating glimpse of Pilgrim life that's sure to surprise, intrigue, and sometimes shock. Here, you can learn about the Mayflower's physical dimensions; see the ship's passenger and crew lists; find out about the lives of the girls and women aboard ship; read accounts of the Pilgrims' voyage, landing, and settlement of Plymouth; and learn the truth about their relationship with the local Indians. The site contains a first-person account of the First Thanksgiving celebration, a photograph of the Mayflower's original passenger list written by William Bradford, versions of the Pilgrim's Peace Treaty with Massasoit, copies of the Pilgrims' wills and estate inventories, and other documents that provide unique insights into the lives of the Pilgrims. Information about Pilgrim food, clothing, weapons, and games is also provided.

Additional resources at the site include a message to teachers, a link to a page of myths about the Pilgrims and the First Thanksgiving that have been taught in classrooms for generations, an area that allows students to email questions to the site's creator, some slightly scandalous accounts of the personal and criminal history of some Mayflower passengers -- and much, much more. In fact, exploring this site is almost as great an adventure as the one it describes.


Back to basics

Teachers of very young students might also want to go to The Pilgrims and America's First Thanksgiving for an appropriate story of the first Thanksgiving. Then, be sure to visit An American Thanksgiving for simple holiday ideas and activities. Here, click The First Thanksgiving to read some important historical documents, including the Mayflower Compact, the Peace Treaty with Massasoit, and various Thanksgiving proclamations; explore Thanksgiving Fun to find stories, poems, songs, games, and Thanksgiving pictures to color; and click And more... to explore links to additional resources.

Finally, be sure to check out this week's Education World LESSON PLANNING story, Pilgrim projects, for additional Thanksgiving ideas and information.


An additional site for Thanksgiving exploration

An outline of American history
From "A Hypertext on American History," this site includes information about the colonial period and the Pilgrim's search for religious and political freedom.


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Article by Linda Starr
Education World®
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Updated 11/20/2015