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  Closing the Gaps

Teaching About Thanksgiving

How do you teach about Thanksgiving? That's a key question to ask yourself as a classroom teacher.

Do you know the facts and history behind it? Are your teachings, activities and messages to the next generation based on myth, generalities or misinformation? What were you taught? What are you teaching? Where does it come from?

Each year schools across the nation celebrate Thanksgiving with students. Often this entails reenactments of the original Thanksgiving feast with children dressed in pilgrim and Indian costumes, complete with inaccurate stereotypes of both the Puritan pilgrims and the Wampanoag of the northeast coast of North America.

Most of the materials readily available to teachers on the mass market are not accurate. However, as long as schools continue to use those materials, they will continue to be produced and marketed as authentically historical. And as long as the myths and stereotypes continue being taught in our schools, our future teachers will keep passing it on as fact. It's a cycle that needs to be broken.

So what can educators do to stop the cycle and teach a better understanding of our nation’s history? First, you can begin with an OSPI publication called "Teaching About Thanksgiving." It was first published in 1978 and reprinted in 2003. It's a compilation of historical information, activities and resources for teachers. It's a good place to start.

Another excellent resource is a beautiful book published by Scholastic is called 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. This book is a part of the Plimoth Plantation Museum’s effort to reinterpret the 1621 harvest feast. It is educator friendly and has application to K-12 teaching.

Another excellent resource is a beautiful book published by Scholastic is called 1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving, by Catherine O’Neill Grace and Margaret M. Bruchac. This book is a part of the Plimoth Plantation Museum’s effort to reinterpret the 1621 harvest feast. It is educator friendly and has application to K-12 teaching.

There are many things we can each be thankful for and as educators these two resources should be on that list. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sally recommends resources for teachers available through the National Museum of the American Indian.

Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  (360) 725-6000  TTY (360) 664-3631
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