Understanding Gratefulness: Clearing Up Misconceptions of Long Ago and Today

By Megan Power on November 15, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8


Tragically, many teachers discuss Thanksgiving events and information only in terms of the past when teaching about the holiday. We need to teach our students that Native Americans are still around today and that there are people in our world who live much as the Pilgrims did, either by choice or because of poverty. With the help of modern technology, students can instantly connect to the world to experience this firsthand. Come see how my students realized how much they have to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.


Clearing Up Misconceptions of Long Ago and Today

Most students think life is completely different today than in the past (which it is, for them), but that is not the case for everyone. As my kindergarten class looked at pictures of Pilgrim and Wampanoag children fetching water from a well on Scholastic.com’s Plimoth Plantation page, I asked if this still happens today. Their overwhelming response was “No!” along with laughter at their teacher for “being so silly.” When I described villages in Africa where kids can’t go to school because they have to walk to wells to get water for their families, my students looked at me with shocked expressions. Could this really be true? When I asked if Native Americans still lived today, a little more hesitantly, but with visions of Indians at the first Thanksgiving, they replied with another “No.”


When I explained that Native Americans in fact do live today, my kindergartners were unsure of this new information. They eagerly looked on as I took them with a click of the mouse to different parts of our world. We visited Native American tribes of today, including the four local tribes here in San Diego. Their curiosity soared as several of them realized they have been on the Indian reservations before. The students were fascinated by the Amish population that we looked at in Pennsylvania, who choose to live without electricity or modern technology. Their hearts broke as they learned about small villages in Africa where kids spend 26% of their day walking to gather dirty water for their families because they do not have running water in their houses. (Our class is talking about trying to do a service learning project on this.)


A visit to Global Rich List is another eye-opening experience. Just type in your yearly salary and see how wealthy you are compared to others in the world. You can show your class how the money we spend on life's extras could benefit people around the world. I was especially shocked to see that the cost of a new TV, $2,400, would be enough money for "schooling for an entire generation of children in an Angolan village." That TV doesn't sound so important anymore.

By going beyond the story of the first Thanksgiving and clearing up misconceptions of now and long ago, my students have opened their eyes and become more curious about their world and the people in it. After glimpsing other parts of our world and seeing what little others have compared to them, my students learned the true meaning of gratefulness. This understanding, coupled with a newfound desire to make a difference in their world, is a wonderful Thanksgiving gift.

When you are presenting your Thanksgiving lessons this year, help clear up your students’ misconceptions about past and present day by using modern technology to give them a little global perspective!

What are you doing to bring the world to your class this Thanksgiving? What puts the season into perspective for you? Comment below.

And don’t forget to participate in Scholastic.com’s live Webcast from Plimoth Plantation this Tuesday at 1 p.m. ET!



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