Once Upon a Pilgrim

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By Lourdes Nicholls

Thanksgiving has a bit more meaning when you have a pilgrim in the house! My youngest child set sail on Beye School's Second Grade MAYFLOWERadventure. This tradition started in 1994 when Mrs. Fencl had the idea to educate her second grade class on the history of the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. In 1998 all second grade teachers came "on board" and it has become quite a memorable event - just seeing dozens of Pilgrims in November is enough to get you in the mood!

Prior to the voyage, each child is assigned a character to portray. They set sail for two days on a ship made lovingly by parents. They played the same kind of games the pilgrims played aboard the Mayflower, but it wasn't all fun. The children experienced many of the hardships and historical events that the pilgrims did, eating the same food and wearing the same set of clothes for two days. The real pilgrims had to wear the same outfit for 66 days!

Based on historical accounts, the kids experience some of the incredible events during the voyage each day. They run into a storm complete with lights and music along with swaying and seasickness. Baby Oceanus is born on board and John Howland 'falls' overboard but escapes death when men rescue him with a rope. A Mayflower Compact is written (Second Grade Compact) and they reach land "Land HO! I see land!" I must say that my older children remember their Mayflower trip fondly (mostly 'who' fell overboard).

The children keep a daily journal describing the events and feelings from their character's point of view. Each child brings a small suitcase with five items. This year my son portrayed John Alden the cooper on the ship. Here is an except from his journal:

" October 12, 1620. I helped fix the broken parts on the boat. It is hard sailing in the rain. Almost everyone on the Mayflower is sick. One thousand and fifty nine miles until we see land. It will be fun seeing the New World.

I found photos of my daughter as "Mary Brewster". Here's her excerpt from her Journal:

"November 12, 1620. I am hungry. I feel scared. I am not sure that we are going to make it to America."

My older son was "Bartholomew Allerton. Here is an except from his journal:

"October 28, 1620. I am not seasick. I am feeling good. I am not sick. I have been on deck with my friends."

Family members were able to greet the Pilgrims when they landed to tour the ship, read the journals and celebrate.  I learned that one child in the class is related to the Pilgrim he portrayed, Francis Cooke! Wow! How cool is that?  See the Gallery of pics & enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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CJ from Oak Park  

Posted: December 3rd, 2010 8:11 AM

As a former educator, I love to read about great projects that really engage the students. Thanks for sharing this with the community!


Posted: November 24th, 2010 4:29 PM

What a great school project! Great way to remember this nation's beginnings.Happy Thanksgiving!!

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