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 You are the historian:
Investigating the
first Thanksgiving



  • Educational Technology
  • Social Studies
    ---U.S. History


  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief description

Learn the truth about the "First Thanksgiving."



  • learn about the facts and myths that surround the "First Thanksgiving" (the harvest celebration of 1621) at Plimoth Colony.
  • learn about the role that historians play in the collection and dissemination of history.
  • use their knowledge of the "First Thanksgiving" to create a museum exhibit of their own.
  • complete a quiz after viewing the entire "Investigate the First Thanksgiving" Web site.


Thanksgiving, colony, Pilgrims, Plimoth, Plymouth, Wampanoag

Materials needed

Lesson plan

Lesson plan resource:
You are the historian: Investigating the first Thanksgiving

The remarkable resource above was created by the staff of Plimoth Plantation. Students step into the shoes of Dancing Shoes, a modern-day descendent of the Wampanoag Indians, and Sara, a descendent of Remember Allerton, one of the original colonists who landed at Plimoth aboard the Mayflower. We recommend walking students through this Web presentation. To do that, you can project the Web site on a screen for all to see. (If you do not have access to a projector attached to your Internet connection, perhaps you can present this Web site in your school's computer lab.) Together, you and your students can explore these sections of the site:

  • Fact or myth? -- Is what you think about the 1621 harvest celebration really true?
  • The evidence -- This actual letter a colonist wrote about the 1621 celebration stands as primary-source evidence of what happened.
  • The Wampanoag people -- Learn how the Wampanoag of 1621 lived and gave thanks through the four seasons.
  • The English colonists -- Visit a colonist's home to learn how the family prepared for the 1621 celebration.
  • The path to 1621 -- Learn about events that led up to the celebration of 1621.
  • Share what you have discovered -- Students use what they have learned to create their own museum exhibit with captions.
Be sure to refer to the "Becoming a historian" Teacher's Guide. This teacher's guide suggests ways to use each of the above sections of the Web site to teach important lessons about the harvest celebration of 1621 and the role of historians.

Once you have explored the site in detail as a class, you might let students explore at their own pace (in the classroom computer center or the school computer lab). Let them us the Web site as a resource as they complete the "Investigating the first Thanksgiving" quiz. Students might work with a partner to do this activity. The answers to this quiz appear in the Assessment section below.


Answers to the "Investigating the first Thanksgiving" quiz
Fact or myth? 1.F, 2.F, 3.T, 4.F.
The evidence. 5. Edward Winslow; 6. f; 7. five.
The Wampanoag people. 8. bark; 9. spring; 10. fish; 11. get away from ocean winds.
The English colonists. 12.F, 13.T, 14.F, 15.T, 16.F, 17.F.
The path to 1621. 18. women and children; 19. protect themselves from enemies.
The "first Thanksgiving" glossary. 20.e, 21.h, 22.a, 23.g, 24.k, 25.j, 26.i, 27.c, 28.b, 29.d, 30.f.

Lesson plan source

Submitted By

Gary Hopkins

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Last updated 11/06/2015