This post ended up being so much longer than I expected! I think I got lost in a research vortex. 🙂
Our feature book to introduce our study was If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Ann McGovern, but the amount of information available to expand on the book, as usual, was overwhelming. There were so many books I wanted to use to introduce our study on Pilgrims, but this one seemed easiest to grasp, especially for my six-year-old.
If you’d like to use some of these ideas and need a planner to help you organize your projects, download this free Story Farmer exclusive “Let’s Travel Through Time” one-page planner, or download a more extensive (and free) unit study planner from Hi5 Homeschool.
The Church of England
In the early 1600’s there was a group of English Protestants who felt the Church of England was straying from Biblical principles. These Protestants, called Separatists because they didn’t want to pledge allegiance to the Church of England, suffered persecution due to their beliefs and decided to flee England for religious freedom. They initially found refuge in The Netherlands.
Watch a short Drive Thru History video about the Separatists and the Church of England.
Life in The Netherlands
The Separatists lived in Amsterdam for the first year, but they found the lifestyle there objectionable and relocated to Leiden (then called Leyden), another Dutch town. Unfortunately, by 1620, it was illegal for anyone in The Netherlands to hold religious meetings in their homes. This combined with a other issues forced the Separatists to make the decision to travel to the New World in hopes of making a better life for themselves and their children while being able to worship freely and in peace.
Take a photo tour of Pilgrim sites in Leiden. (I had to reduce my computer screen size to 80% in order to view the captions, but the pictures were interesting and worth the small effort.)
Traveling to the New World
The first ship purchased for the trip to the New World was the Speedwell. With plans to head to England first, the Separatists purchased this ship in Holland and sailed from Delfshaven, a small inner-city harbor in the Netherlands, on July 22, 1620. Before leaving for England, John Robinson, the pastor of the Pilgrim church in Leiden, read a letter to bid them farewell. This letter had a profound impact on many of the Pilgrims, and some of the concepts and wording made their way into the Mayflower Compact.
They sailed to Southampton, England, to meet the Mayflower with the intention of sailing to the New World from there. Unfortunately, due to the Speedwell taking on water, they ended up in Plymouth, a port city on the southern coast of England. Now with only the Mayflower, many from the Speedwell crammed onto the already small ship, and the voyage proved to be difficult due to the conditions. Because the Mayflower was a cargo ship, the Pilgrims lived in the dark, damp, and cold cargo decks below the crew’s quarters. The sailors detested the Pilgrims; wooden chamber pots served as toilets; and there was nowhere to bathe.
During the voyage, the Pilgrims’ main diet consisted of hard tack, salt pork, dried meats (including cow tongue), pickled foods, oats, and fish. The primary beverage for everyone, including children, was beer! (Water was likely to become brackish and potentially deadly!)
View a Plymouth, Devon England brochure featuring Mayflower Trail (.pdf format).
View a Plymouth, Devon England Visitor’s Guide here (interactive online guide).
Mayflower Videos and Activities
Watch a Drive Thru History video about the Speedwell and the Mayflower.
Read a fictional letter from a child about what life was like on the Mayflower.
Take a tour of the Mayflower, then follow the journey of the Colonists from Holland to Plymouth.
The early colonists were not referred to as “Pilgrims” until the early 19th century after a manuscript by William Bradford was discovered in which Bradford referred to them as “pilgrimes” and “saints.” Before this, the Plymouth settlers were known as “Old Comers” and later as “Forefathers.” It was Daniel Webster who spoke of “Pilgrim Fathers” at a bicentennial celebration of Plymouth’s founding in 1820, which introduced our common usage of the term “pilgrim.” Those not part of the Pilgrim church were called “Strangers.”
The Mayflower Compact was the first agreement for self-government to be created in our country, and John Quincy Adams saw it as a fore-runner of the ideas developed in the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. It was drawn up by the Pilgrims on board the ship to serve as the basis of their future legal and social organization. Adams described the Mayflower Compact as “the only instance in human history of that positive, original social compact” and considered it to be the “only legitimate source for government.” It was not called the Mayflower Compact until 1793.
Watch a Drive Thru History video about the Mayflower Compact.
View the handwritten copy of the Mayflower Compact.
Older learners can compare the Mayflower Compact with John Robinson’s farewell letter and find similarities in wording and concept. Follow by comparing the Mayflower Compact with contemporary documents such as the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
The Wampanoag Tribe
On November 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, the Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod. A few weeks after their arrival at Cape Cod they sailed along the coast, finally landing in Plymouth. Unfortunately, adjusting to life in the New World proved to be difficult, but surviving members of the Wampanoag people offered assistance to the “coat men,” the name given to the English by the Wampanoag.
Learn more about the Wampanoag Tribe with this printable.
If you grew up with The Mini Page, you can introduce your kids to it with this Mini Page featuring the Wampanoag people.
Make a virtual Wampum Belt.
View a map of Wampanoag Territory in the 1600’s.
Take a virtual field trip of a Wampanoag homesite.
Play some Native American games.
Plymouth Colony became the first sustained English settlement in New England.
Learn about and play four games that pilgrim children played with this free download!
To learn more about the lives of colonial children, use this interactive notebook of Remember Patience Whipple, a fictional account of a child who traveled to the New World aboard the Mayflower.
Read (or listen to) letters from Colonial and Wampanoag children about their experiences.
Compare and contrast Wampanoag and Pilgrim clothing.
Take a virtual field trip of a 17th century English village.
Talk like a Pilgrim using this list of common Colonist phrases.
Discuss various paintings:
Study paintings from the Pilgrim Hall Museum.
View and discuss the 1843 painting Embarkation of the Pilgrims, currently in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol building.
The Pilgrims almost selected Captain John Smith as their military adviser but decided to use Miles Standish instead. However, they did use Smith’s map of New England when voyaging to Plymouth. View a map made by Captain Smith prior to the arrival of the Colonists in Plymouth (from this main site). You can view an interactive version of the same map here.
Originally heading to what is now Virginia, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off-course. View a map of the route the Mayflower took from Plymouth England to Plymouth Colony. With this map you can view how the Gulf Stream ocean current re-directed the colonists.
Print a map featuring where the Pilgrims landed and where they relocated.
Use this map worksheet to answer a few simple questions about the Mayflower’s journey.
Use this interactive map to see the journey of the Mayflower, and then answer questions about the map. (Flash required.)
Have fun with some Mayflower Math word problems with this free download for your 3rd – 5th graders.
Upper elementary students can complete this Mayflower-themed math worksheet.
Cavalcade of America: Tisquantum Strange Friend of the Pilgrims (Tisquantum is more commonly known as Squanto)
Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement (for older listeners)
Bible Passage and Hymn
Upon land arrival, the Pilgrims thanked God and recited Psalm 100. Read and memorize some or all of it. (You can change the version with the drop-down menu after the jump.)
Try some interesting and fun Wampanoag and Pilgrim recipes.
Make three different types of Colonial Cornbread from a single recipe.
Additional Resources and Activities
If you don’t want to make a bracelet, you can re-tell the story with these printable paper puppets.
Print free coloring pages.
Take more virtual field trips here.
Make a paper plate Pilgrim.
To take an in-depth look at the story of the Pilgrims, visit the web site Pilgrims to America – A Pictorial History.
Watch The Pilgrims, an American Experience documentary from PBS (broken down into approximately five-minute segments).
Library Book Suggestions
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