Life at Plymouth

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12228

Did the pilgrims travel to America just to celebrate Thanksgiving? No, but despite a difficult trip and harsh living conditions, they had much to be thankful for! Learn about these early settlers!


United States

learning style
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Skill Sharpener

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Who sailed in that big ship above and why?
  • Did they bring turkeys with them?

Before you get started, make a list of everything you think you know about the pilgrims and the settlement at Plymouth.

Then, set your list to the side. You will come back to that list again at the end of this section.

In September 1620, about 100 people left England and sailed for North America. The pilgrims were in search of a new home.

In England, the only legal church was the Church of England. The pilgrims often faced persecution because they did not belong to the Church of England. They wanted to find a place where they would be free to worship God without fear of the English government.

The pilgrims traveled to North America on a large ship called the Mayflower. It usually took two to three months for a ship to travel from Europe to North America.

The voyage to their new home was not an easy one. Many people suffered from seasickness when the ship encountered a storm.

Also, with 100 people packed together on the boat, sickness and disease spread quickly. If one person caught the flu or a similar illness, it soon spread to the other passengers on board. Several people even died before the Mayflower landed in North America.

Life did not get easier when the Mayflower finally reached land. It docked in the harbor at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in November 1620.

The pilgrims were skilled farmers, but they had arrived too late. Winter was starting and there was no time to plant and harvest crops before the cold winter months. It is estimated that more than half of the pilgrims died that winter from starvation and illness.

It appeared the pilgrims might not survive at Plymouth, but a local Native-American tribe offered to help. The Wampanoag, a tribal group native to the region, sent one of their men to live with the pilgrims for a short time.

Squanto had lived in England a few years prior and could speak English. He taught the pilgrims survival skills such as hunting, where to plant crops, and how to stay warm through the harsh Massachusetts winters.

In November 1621, the pilgrims were so happy to have survived their first year that they decided to celebrate by having a large feast. When the Wampanoag heard about the event, they decided they would attend, too. Some have even called the Wampanoag the first party crashers!

The feast was such a fun event that the pilgrims decided to host it annually.

To learn more about the pilgrim's first year at Plymouth, watch this video.

Now, get out the list you started at the beginning of the lesson.

  1. Read through the items that you already wrote down.
  2. Cross off any items that turned out to be inaccurate.
  3. Then, add any new facts you learned during this lesson to your list.

When you are finished working on your list, move on to the Got It? section to play a game and learn more fun facts about the pilgrims. You will continue to add to your list as you play the game, so be sure to keep it close.

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