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The Truth about Thanksgiving - Coloring Book

School: Alice B. Beal Elementary

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): 3

Format(s): Children's book: Coloring

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies, Visual Arts

Project Overview

3rd grade students at the Alice B. Beal Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts, created this coloring book as part of a Learning Expedition on the “real story” behind Thanksgiving. A case study investigation, this Learning Expedition involved students in trying to research “what really happened” at the first Thanksgiving.

Because the written documentation of the event is entirely from the White perspective of the Pilgrims, it was not possible to get a truly balanced perspective and get a sense of how the Wampanoags viewed the event at that time. As is often the case, the perspective of indigenous peoples was not sought and recorded at the time. So this is not actually a full story or "true" story.

However, the students worked hard with the resources they could access to dispel some of the common myths about the first Thanksgiving (such as that Pilgrims and Wampanoags were friends, or that they ate foods that are common at today's Thanksgiving dinners), and they shared what they learned from their research about the event.

They prioritized primary source documents, using writing by Pilgrims William Bradford and Edward Winslow about what happened at the event. They did field research at the Plimouth Plantation Museum and consulted with experts there about what we know about the lives and perspectives of Pilgrims and Wampanoags. They used websites for the Plimouth Plantation Museum and Boston Children's Museum in their research.

This coloring book includes line drawings and multi-sentence paragraphs in which students depict their knowledge of people, events and interactions between the two cultural groups. The borders use designs from traditional Wampanoag themes. The book also became part of a service project: baskets of food were made by a local organization for families-in-need at Thanksgiving; the book was included as a gift for each family.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Highlights a history expedition in which students attempt to uncover something – not just tell the same story that’s been told – giving students a sense of mission
  • Shows a high level of skillful writing by 3rd graders
  • Shows the wide range of the type of information students gathered and analyzed
  • A creative and effective format to address and deepen content required in state curriculum frameworks and district science requirements
  • A useful format for showing students’ knowledge of both historical and cultural information
  • An example of a product with an authentic audience and a service component

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can accurately synthesize information from two texts on the same topic.
  • I can write an informative/explanatory text.
  • With support from peers and adults, I can use the writing process to plan, revise and edit my writing.
  • I can choose evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection and research.
  • I can use grammar conventions to send a clear message to a reader or listener.
  • I can use conventions to send a clear message to my reader.
  • I can accurately use 3rd grade academic vocabulary to express my ideas.
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