Thanksgiving Activities and Unit Studies

November 23, 2020
Written by:
Guest Author

Sponsored by Time4Learning.

Thanksgiving unit studies and activities combine history, art, culture, food, science, math, reading and more. From baking goods, drawing pictures, crafting, comparing and contrasting viewpoints on Thanksgiving, studying native American culture, the options are fun and nearly endless.

Many young students enjoy entertaining science activities, crafting and art but as they get older they’ll start discovering new elements of Thanksgiving that they find fascinating — with your help of course!  Your activities should nurture this fascination by inviting investigation, technology, critical thinking and as many other skills as you can pull in. 

The following information is a starting point that will give you an idea of how to combine entertaining activities about a holiday into your homeschooling lessons. As a result, your children will receive a rewarding educational experience while boosting their skill set. It’s almost like hiding vegetables in a casserole — you know they’re there, but your kids aren’t paying attention because it tastes so good!          

Thanksgiving Elementary School Activities

Young kids love the holidays and that’s why they provide great learning moments. For instance, if you make Thanksgiving cupcakes with your kids the exercise will emphasize fine motor skills, sequencing, listening, and math. This could be done with any recipe or activity. Try these additional activities and discover more learning moments. If you’re not sure how to go about these tasks, a quick Google search will provide the needed information.

  • Make butter from cream — You don’t need a churn, just use an electric blender. Your children will be using math, science, sequencing, listening skills and more. 
  • Try pumpkin science — Your kids will create pumpkin slime, bubbles and even a pumpkin volcano. 
  • Learn about the children on the Mayflower — Your children can read about them and you can discuss the real-life challenges those children faced.
  • Color and craft — Most children love to draw their own turkeys, create their own pilgrim hats or make native American crafts. You can even make your own thanksgiving day feast centerpiece
  • Incorporate technology — Watch interesting videos on YouTube or other instructional channels. Your children will learn about pilgrim life, the Mayflower and more. 

These are just a few ideas. You can also join other homeschooling friends and create your own thanksgiving activities and unit studies. Your young children will love the fun while they sharpen and improve a variety of learning skills. 

Thanksgiving Middle School Activities 

When children reach middle school, they are developing their own identities and opinions. With that in mind, this could be a perfect time to start building their critical thinking skills and to branch off into more difficult concepts that are still entertaining. There’s still time for craft activities and cooking adventures, but by incorporating more advanced exercises, you’ll be preparing them for their high school years. Here are some ideas:

  • Become an investigator — Using the skills that investigators and historians use, discover what really happened at the first Thanksgiving feast.
  • Make a cornhusk doll — These dolls were very important to native Americans. They were used for entertainment but also things like sacred healing ceremonies. 
  • Thanksgiving fill-in — The New York Times created an awesome fill-in the blanks challenge. 
  • Create a native American beaded necklace — A quick Google search will give you ideas on how to create your own jewelry.
  • Visit the Pilgrim Hall museum online — Your middle schoolers will find a wealth of knowledge on this museum site that can be used for research papers, Powerpoint presentations and more.  

These fun activities can be used as standalone unit studies or folded into your regular classwork. They will introduce your students to a new culture and help them better understand the past, by using critical thinking methods and creative skills.  

Thanksgiving High School Activities

By high school, students yearn for independence and, fortunately, homeschooling gives you that freedom. For the last four years of school, you can give your children thanksgiving activities or let them make the choice. You should review their ideas and make certain they’re covering at least some of these skill sets: critical thinking and reasoning skills, researching methods, technology, communication, diversity, problem solving skills and more. The following are some ideas that might help you and your student start a brainstorming session. 

  • Study the Wampanoag language — This will certainly challenge your student. By searching various websites such as this one, your student can become familiar with the language
  • Contact a native American nation — A quick Google search should provide your student with contact information. It would be great to interview a native American and get their take on Thanksgiving — they can then compare and contrast their thoughts.
  • Give to the community — Devote your time to a homeless shelter, nursing home, or volunteer to deliver food for the needy. Communicate with the people, take pictures if possible and have your children record their experiences. 
  • Compare stories of the first Thanksgiving — Students will evaluate evidence, research, use critical thinking skills, and communicate their findings. Use this resource to compare four different viewpoints on Thanksgiving. This can be a group project or an individual one. 
  • Take charge of the Thanksgiving meal — If your student is up to the task, have them write out the list, shop for the food with a budget, cook the meal (with some help), and generally take charge of all the logistics.  

As you can see, the holiday assignments increase in difficulty during the high school years. But by intensifying the challenges, you are preparing your students for what comes after high school. 

The holidays provide a unique opportunity to incorporate compelling and entertaining learning assignments into your daily homeschooling routine (like vegetables in a casserole!). You can also use them as unit studies — whatever works for you and your family.  Either way, your students will improve many learning skills as they advance through their activities. And, as a result, they’ll build a stronger all-around educational foundation. Have a great Thanksgiving!

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