It’s hard to believe that Halloween is over and the winter months will soon begin. Before long, houses will be covered in colored lights, Santa will appear on every storefront, and familiar carols will begin to play. Today though, I’d like to pump the breaks and think about Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a holiday with many layers. We’re encouraged to think outside ourselves, share hearty meals, and celebrate the history and culture of American’s Indigenous population.

This can be a lot to digest (no pun intended), but it also provides educators with a unique opportunity. Thanksgiving can help teachers introduce and explore some often-overlooked topics in their classrooms. Native history, for example, is an important subject but often gets overshadowed by other historical events. Nutrition plays a crucial role in the lives of students, but how frequently is it discussed outside of Health class? Finally, research has shown that adopting an attitude of thankfulness can improve an individual’s overall well-being – something which ties in perfectly with social-emotional learning.

So, if you’re an educator hoping to discuss these topics in the coming weeks, consider using one of these thoughtful strategies to get your classroom started:

  • The First Thanksgiving: Help your students gain an appreciation for the rich indigenous tribes that thrived on the continent during the time of the first Thanksgiving. Print a copy of the Fascinating Facts form for each student. Then, share this Thinglink. Allow students six minutes to explore the resource freely. Give them five minutes to record five favorite facts and one wonderful question to hand in to you. Spend your final four minutes reading the questions to see if you know the answers — or if your students’ fascinating facts have helped them teach you something new!
  • Gratitude Letter: Have students write a letter to someone who has helped them but who they have not yet thanked. Students can read their letter to him or her in person (or virtually) and share their experience with the class. The Greater Good Science Center found that students who participated in this activity showed greater ‘positive emotions’ even 2 months after the study.
  • Heart and Health: Help students understand the value of good nutrition with the game Your Heart or Mine. First, print out the cards and distribute them to students. Next, have them hypothesize about what these shapes mean before revealing which ones represent illness and which ones are safe. Use this as an introduction to the subject of healthy eating. (If you enjoyed this game, be sure to check out the Blue Apple project, Food for Thought).
  • 50 Thanksgiving Trivia Questions: Do you know what foods were originally served at the first Thanksgiving? What about the President who received a live raccoon as a Thanksgiving present? Use these 50 fun Thanksgiving facts to get your students engaged and spark their curiosity!

If you and your students enjoyed these activities, be sure to check out the Blue Apple Timely Topic: THINKsgiving. In THINKsgiving, your students level up their creative and critical thinking skills with 4 fun, 15-minute activities to make Thanksgiving a thinktastic adventure! Do one or do them all—the choice is yours. The holiday season is a perfect time to tap into students’ curiosity and wonder. Just provide them with relevant and meaningful activities and watch as their imaginations begin to soar!

For more free educational resources, check out these free tools and strategies from Blue Apple!

*Image courtesy of Karl Gruber via Wikimedia Commons.