This resource is a Social Studies student activity that utilizes Utah's Online Library resources - specifically, Gale's Kids InfoBits, EBSCO's Explora Elementary, and World Book Encyclopedia to help students learn about Thanksgiving.
About Utah’s Online Library
Utah's Online Library provides Utah educators and students free access to high-quality reference collections such as EBSCO, Gale Reference Collection, World Book, eMedia, and LearningExpress Library.
This activity was designed to help educators utilize this amazing resource in their classrooms.
Note: Utah educators and students visiting Utah's Online Library from a school computer should be automatically authenticated. When at home, students must use the home access login that their teacher or school media specialist can provide. Utah educators can use either their my.uen login or the home access login.
Essential Question: How and why do Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving: What are its true origins? How long have Americans officially celebrated Thanksgiving? Are there other countries that observe days set aside for giving thanks?
In 1789, in the first few months of his presidency (he became president in April 1789), George Washington, proclaimed that Thursday, November 26th, would be a special day of "public thanksgiving and prayer". But this special day was just to take place in 1789. When did a day of thanksgiving become more official?
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln encouraged Americans to set aside the last Thursday of November as a special day for giving thanks. This was in the middle of the Civil War. What might have prompted President Lincoln to encourage citizens to give thanks?
It wasn't until 1941 that Thanksgiving became an official day for Americans. Who signed the bill to establish the fourth Thursday of every November as Thanksgiving? Have your students do some additional research to fill in some Thanksgiving details of how/if Thanksgiving was observed between 1789 and 1941.
Why is turkey traditionally served? How did cranberries and pumpkin pie become part of the Thanksgiving menu?
Your students can use the following sections of Utah's Online Library to further their Thanksgiving research:
- Gale's Kids InfoBits K-6 has magazine articles, books, and news articles.
- World Book Encyclopedia has articles and even websites. In World Book, click on Related Information at the top of each article to view related websites.
- EBSCO's Explora Elementary School has magazine articles, newspaper articles, and even primary sources.
Have your students turn Thanksgiving into a graphing activity. They could poll their friends and families about favorite kinds of pies and graph the results. They could gather data about what part of the Thanksgiving menu people like the most (stuffing? sweet potatoes? pie? turkey?, etc) and graph the results. They could compile a list of things that people indicate that they are thankful for and graph the results.
If you have students from other countries in your classroom, have them share about possible celebrations that occur in their country where specific special foods are eaten.