Friday, November 4, 2011

Presenting the Pilgrims ~ A Unit Study

Here is a list of activities and ideas to do daily for a week with your children so you can teach how these God fearing people left their homelands in search of a closer relationship with their Creator (and the freedom to worship Him). We shouldn't take our liberties lightly as many of these people sacrificed their lives for this cause and we continue to reap the rewards to this day. 

Day One ~ Presenting the Pilgrims

Start Reading Aloud the Chapter Book ~ Stories of the Pilgrims by Margaret Pumphrey (This classic is free online with this link in an easy to read format).  Read a few chapters every day. Your children will really enjoy this old fashioned book!

Older children may appreciate listening to the audio-drama, The Legend of Squanto (Radio Theatre) by Focus on the Family.

Day Two ~ Pilgrims in Picture Books

by Kate Waters

by Kate Waters

Girls of 6 - 12 years would appreciate the lovely and godly book:

Also, if you can find the book, What the Pilgrims Knew by Tillie S. Pine and Joseph Levine,  you would have some fun and interesting science information for this study. It is no longer in print but your local library may have it.

Day Three ~ Pilgrim Printables

You can print out some paper dolls to be colored and cut out (small sample above). Use them for decoration or to put on a little skit about the first Thanksgiving.

You can also print out the coloring page above for free with this link or for a full page of selections, go to this site.

Day Four ~ Pilgrim Places (Geography)

Print out a blank world map and have your children find the starting point of England on the map and label it. Now, have them draw a potential route the pilgrims may have taken when then went to try and live in Holland (they should label Holland as well). Have them find Massachusetts on the map and label it and then draw a potential route for the pilgrims when they left Holland to go to Plymouth (present day Massachusetts). Lastly, have them label where you live on the map and see if the older children can calculate how far they live from Plymouth.

Day Four ~ Pilgrim Poems (You may want the older children to practice their handwriting by copying some verses from the poems below.)

The First Thanksgiving, 1621, by J.L.G. Ferris

First Thanksgiving of All

Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood by the table giving thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.

There was very little for them to eat,
Nothing special and nothing sweet;
Only bread and a little broth,
And a bit of fruit (and no tablecloth):

But Peace and Mercy and Jonathan
And Patience, in a row,
Stood up and asked a blessing on
Thanksgiving long ago.

Thankful they were their ship had come
Safely across the sea;
Thankful they were for hearth and home,
And kin and company;

They were glad of broth to go with their bread,
Glad their apples were round and red,
Glad of mayflowers they would bring
Out of the woods again next spring.

So Peace and Mercy and Jonathan,
And Patience (very small),
Stood up gratefully giving thanks
The first Thanksgiving of all.

by Nancy Byrd Turner

Landing of the Pilgrims by Charles Lucey

The Landing Of The Pilgrim Fathers

The breaking waves dashed high
On a stern and rock-bound coast,
And the woods, against a stormy sky,
Their giant branches tost;

And the heavy night hung dark
The hills and water o'er,
When a band of exiles moored their bark
On the wild New England shore.

Not as the conqueror comes,
They, the true-hearted, came;
Not with the roll of the stirring drums,
And the trumpet that sings of fame;

Not as the flying come,
In silence and in fear,—
They shook the depths of the desert's gloom
With their hymns of lofty cheer.

Amidst the storm they sang,
And the stars heard and the sea;
And the sounding aisles of the dim woods rang
To the anthem of the free.

The ocean-eagle soared
From his nest by the white wave's foam,
And the rocking pines of the forest roared—
This was their welcome home!

There were men with hoary hair
Amidst that pilgrim band:
Why had they come to wither there,
Away from their childhood's land?

There was woman's fearless eye,
Lit by her deep love's truth;
There was manhood's brow serenely high,
And the fiery heart of youth.

What sought they thus afar?
Bright jewels of the mine?
The wealth of the seas? the spoils of war?—
They sought a faith's pure shrine!

Ay, call it holy ground,
The soil where first they trod!
They have left unstained what there they found—
Freedom to worship God!

by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Day Five ~ Pilgrim Paintings for Picture Study

Embarkation of the Pilgrims by Robert Weir

Ask your children the following questions about the painting above:
  • What is the first item they notice when they looked at this picture?
  • What do they think the pilgrims are doing? (Be specific.)
  • Do they notice anything interesting in the background? (A rainbow and a castle.)
  • Based on what they have learned so far, can they guess who any of the people might be?
The First Thanksgiving by Jennie Brownscombe

Ask your children the following questions about the painting above:
  • How does this painting make them feel?
  • What do they like about this painting?
  • Would they like to be a part of the festivities? Why or why not?
  • What season does it look like in the background?
  • Is this how they think the first Thanksgiving may have really looked? Why or why not?

Day 6 ~ Pilgrims and Puritans

Discuss the Differences:

I have been confused about the difference of these two groups all my life! After reading up a bit on the subject, I came to the conclusion that "pilgrims" were puritans that left England and broke their ties completely from the church in order to start a new life and a new church (first settling in Holland before finally going to the New World). They arrived in the Mayflower in 1620 and settled in Plymouth. They were led by William Brewster.

The puritans left directly from England to the New world a few years after and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They believed in reforming the church of England and were loyal to it instead of cutting the ties and starting fresh like the "pilgrims" did. They were led by John Winthrop.

Both were puritan and reformists but it looks like the loyalty to England and the Church of England was the major difference.

Day Seven ~ Pilgrims in Prayer and Praise

Pilgrims Going to Church by George Henry Boughton

Being it is the seventh day, if you were a pilgrim you would be resting. It is the Sabbath. You would have prepared your meals the day before so that you could fully observe the Lord's Day. This is something for us all to ponder on...

Today would be an appropriate time to discuss with your children the true meaning of "pilgrim" and how we are all pilgrims on a journey. Have an older child look up the word "pilgrim" in the dictionary. Discuss the verse below and what it means:

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims,
abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul…"
~ 1 Peter 2:11

Listen to the song "Happy Little Pilgrims" by Fanny Crosby and see if your children want to sing along.

If you are musically inclined, The Graphics Fairy posted an antique hymn (sheet music with lyrics), titled, "Thanksgiving and Praise" by Asa Hull who was a hymn writer. Perhaps you or your students can play this on an instrument. 


  1. What wonderful ideas! I tutor kids in history and I always like to remind them of the role that faith played in the early settlements in this country, and it sounds like you have some wonderful resources for that. In addition to the Pilgrims' thanksgiving, teaching the first Thanksgiving at Berkeley(a day to be"kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God") in the Virginia Colony (1619) makes for an interesting lesson, too. I found your blog via Far Above Rubies, and I'm so glad I did!

  2. Wonderful, informative post- thanks for posting!

  3. Excellent site! Thanks for all the great information and links! Very fun~

  4. This is a great post. We just finished a pilgrim section in History so I am going to go further with this unit study. Thank you so much!

    1. You are very welcome! I hope you enjoy it :)

  5. How did I miss this post when I was planning our Thanksgiving unit study?! So many great ideas! We did read the "Stories of the Pilgrims" book and loved it (my husband had read it to the children years ago, but this was the first time I had ever read it—I learned a lot!). Thanks for sharing all of your creative ideas! Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thank you Joy! I really loved the Stories of the Pilgrims too! Lots of little nuggets in there! :)