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In November, students in America’s schools will be celebrating Thanksgiving. For many students, their impression of the first Thanksgiving is of a calm celebration of togetherness between Native Americans and the Pilgrims. But behind this idyllic image of tranquility was the real drama of the Pilgrim’s first year in the New World. Lucky to have survived at all, the newcomers had to endure bitter cold, deadly diseases, a lack of food, the loss of loved ones, and the unpredictable nature of the Native American tribes.

 The INTERACT unit PILGRIMS gives students a intimate look at the struggle that was everyday in the Plymouth Colony. They will vicariously experience the hardships of the New World, facing consequences and making decisions just as the original Pilgrims did nearly four centuries ago. By the end of the simulation, students gain a deeper, richer understating of the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

 In PILGRIMS, students establish colonies in the New World and try to survive a multitude of difficulties. Unlike other simulations, where teams of students compete against each other, student groups compete against the original Pilgrims’ progress. The challenge is for each team to surpass the earlier settlers’ achievements by working harder and making smarter decisions. The unit offers three scheduling plans with 9-week, 9-day or 3-day options for completion. The unit is ideal for the three days before Thanksgiving, but os designed to be conducted anytime during the school year.

 PILGRIMS aligns well with 21st century skills of creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, and communication and collaboration. Several of the activities (which can be conducted separately or in sequence) offer children opportunities to practice many of these skills in brief mini-simulations known as “Survival Activities.” Working in teams, students protect their colony, find food, build houses, make peace with the Indians, plant crops, and trade trinkets for furs. In each activity, they have to think and problem solve, communicate with their settlement members, and come up with creative solutions. “Fate Cards” present the dangers of disease, hunger, cold weather, Indian attacks, and fire introducing unforeseen problems that have to be addressed.

 By the end of the simulation, students have increased their understanding of the hardships the original Pilgrims faced and the difficulties they had in being the first New England settlers. The simulation concludes with a pilgrim test, a search for the Ultimate Pilgrim, and an optional Thanksgiving feast.

If you'd like to order PILGRIMS, visit TeachInteract.com.


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