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Pilgrims and Plymouth County

In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock and settled on land that was occupied by the Wampanoag people. Their journey was long, and adapting to the new land was extremely difficult, especially during the brutal winter. With the help of Squanto, an English speaking Wampanoag, the Pilgrims learned how to plant corn, hunt, and fish. In November of 1621, the Pilgrims invited some of the Wampanoag to share a feast, which would later become known as The First Thanksgiving.

Student Activities for Pilgrims and Plymouth County

Essential Questions for Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony

  1. Who were the Pilgrims?
  2. Why did the Pilgrims come to America?
  3. Where is Plymouth and how did the environment affect the way that the Pilgrims lived]
  4. What challenges did the Pilgrims face?
  5. Who were the Wampanoags?
  6. How did the tradition of Thanksgiving come to be?

The Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony

The Pilgrims were a group of European settlers who left England to find religious freedom and to establish a new way of life. On September 16, 1620, 102 men, women, and children, along with several crew members, boarded a ship called The Mayflower and began what would be a grueling 2 month long journey. Storms made crossing the Atlantic Ocean was very difficult, and with so many people on the ship, fresh water didn’t last long and many people became very ill; two people died on the voyage.

The Pilgrims intended on arriving along the Hudson River, but the wind changed their course and they ended up settling on Plymouth, where the harbor was calm, the river water was fresh, and the land was flat for farming. When they arrived, the Pilgrims made an agreement called The Mayflower Compact. This compact stated how issues would be settled and how the colony would be run. It declared that the Pilgrims were loyal to the King of England, that they were Christans who served God, that each person would work for what’s best for the colony, and that all laws would be fair and just. John Carver was named the first governor of Plymouth Colony. The first winter brought a great deal of suffering and death, as the Pilgrims were not prepared for such harsh conditions. They did not have adequate shelter and since so many people were ill, it took a long time to build the small houses that families needed. By the end of the first winter, almost half of the original settlers had died.

The Wampanoags, a Native American tribe, were already settled at Plymouth when the Pilgrims arrived. Although there was originally much strife between the two groups, they eventually agreed upon a treaty of peace and established a trading system. A Wampanoag man named Squanto spoke English, and agreed to help the Pilgrims learn to survive on the land. He taught them how to fish, hunt, plant corn, and how to make it through the harsh winters. Squanto learned English from previous interactions with English invaders and a period of enslavement. Knowing that they wouldn’t have survived without the help of Squanto and the Wampanoag people, the Pilgrims invited them to a feast after their first harvest in 1621. This feast is sometimes called The First Thanksgiving, and is how the American tradition of Thanksgiving began.

The Pilgrims’ landing on Plymouth Rock in 1620 is a rich part of American and Massachusetts history. With the help of the Wampanoags, the Pilgrims established a colony that thrived and was rich in crops. The following activities will help students understand the history behind the peace between the Native Americans and the Pilgrims, and eventually led to the widely celebrated holiday of Thanksgiving.

How to Promote Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity When Teaching Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony


Introduction to Cultural Sensitivity

Begin by explaining the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity when teaching the history of Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony. Emphasize the significance of considering the perspectives of both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans.


Establish the Context

Provide an overview of the historical context, including the different cultures involved in the Pilgrims' arrival in North America. Discuss the Wampanoag tribe and their way of life.


Encourage Perspective-Taking

Guide students in understanding the experiences and viewpoints of both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Engage in a class discussion or use primary source documents to highlight their respective challenges and motivations.


Analyze Primary Sources

Select primary source materials, such as letters, journals, or oral histories, that offer insights into the perspectives of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans. Have students analyze these sources, looking for cultural cues and biases.


Classroom Activities

Develop activities that encourage empathy and perspective-taking. For example, have students participate in role-play scenarios, where they take on the roles of Pilgrims and Native Americans, and discuss how they might have felt during crucial interactions like the First Thanksgiving.


Discussion and Reflection

Conclude the lesson with a group discussion where students reflect on the importance of cultural sensitivity and understanding in studying history. Encourage them to consider how this awareness can be applied to contemporary issues of diversity and inclusion.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony

What should be the main focus when creating a storyboard for the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony?

When creating a storyboard for the Pilgrims and Plymouth Colony, the main focus should be on depicting and narrating the essential historical events associated with the Pilgrims' journey and the establishment of Plymouth Colony. This might include key events like the Mayflower voyage, interactions with Native Americans, the first Thanksgiving, and the early challenges of colonial life, all presented in a chronological and engaging manner. The storyboard should effectively convey the historical context and significance of these events to facilitate understanding and retention of the topic.

What hands-on projects or activities can be combined with worksheets to create a more comprehensive learning experience when teaching Plymouth's history and the Pilgrims?

To create a comprehensive learning experience when teaching Plymouth's history and the Pilgrims, combine worksheets with hands-on projects. Projects like historical reenactments, museum exhibits, cooking traditional Pilgrim recipes, or building a model of the Mayflower offer engaging, immersive experiences. Role-playing interviews, creating artifacts, and letter-writing projects build historical empathy. Virtual field trips provide digital exploration. These projects deepen students' understanding and connect them with the Pilgrims' world, enhancing the learning experience.

What is the role of worksheets in promoting critical thinking and analysis of Plymouth's history?

Worksheets play a crucial role in promoting critical thinking and analysis of Plymouth's history by encouraging inquiry, source analysis, comparative examination, identification of cause and effect, critical reflection, interdisciplinary connections, historiographical awareness, project-based learning, debate and discussion, recognition of bias and perspective, and problem-solving. They engage students in deep historical thought, develop analytical skills, and foster a more profound understanding of Plymouth's complex history.

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