10 Fresh Thanksgiving Crafts With History, Math and Writing Connections

Mix things up this year!

Want to get crafty with your class this Thanksgiving? These craft activities integrate either history and math or history and writing!

1. Wampum Bracelets: Multiplication Arrays and Money


The Native American Wampanoag tribe of the first Thanksgiving created bracelets, belts, earrings and necklaces using wampum beads that they constructed out of shells.

Wampum – Shell Beads
2 colors: white beads from whelk shell and purple beads made from quahog (hard-shelled clam)

Wampum beads were traded by the Wampanoag tribe. Europeans used the wampum beads as a form of currency in 1627. Four white or two purple beads were equivalent to one penny.

To celebrate this art form by the Wampanoag, have your students make their own wampum array bracelets. Then encourage them to figure out the value of the beads they used.

What you need:

  • Brown and white construction paper
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Stapler
  • Pencils
  • Purple Marker
  • Glue sticks
  • Brown yarn (optional)

Cut strips of brown construction paper 1.5″ wide. The length will depend on each child’s wrist size. Fit the strip of paper on each child’s wrist and staple the ends of the strip to create a cuff bracelet. Next give each student a piece of white construction paper, ruler and a pencil. Students sketch out their wampum array design, color it (using purple marker; leave some white) and glue it on their brown construction paper cuff bracelet. On the inside of their wampum bead bracelet, have students record the array of their design. Then write the value of purple and white beads on the board and have students figure out the value of their bracelets! (Optional: Add pieces of brown yarn to the end of each child’s cuff for a more authentic look.)

Math Example (see image):
3 rows of 13 or 3 x 13 = 39
21 purple beads = 10 pennies (1 left over)
18 white beads = 4 pennies (2 left over)
Value = .14

For younger students, you can print out this free PDF of pre-made wampum arrays: Wampum Bracelets.

Wampum Bead History: Mohican Press
About Wampum Bead Currency: Coins.ND.edu

2. Wampanoag Toss-and-Catch Game: Repeated Addition (Multiplication) and Hand-Eye Coordination


Native American and Pilgrim children played toss and catch using a ring (made of vine), twine and a stick. Have your students create their very own toss-and-catch game. Math is integrated by counting up how many times they can catch the ring on the hoop! You can change the value of each catch to make the repeated addition more of a challenge. Students then write the multiplication equation that represents the points they earned.

What you need:

  • Yarn  (15-inch piece for each student)
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Green pipe cleaners (1 for each student), or 12-inch vine, 1.5- to 2-inch diameter
  • A straight 8-inch stick for each student
  • Paper and pencil to record math

Tie one end of the yarn to the stick. Have students make a circle with their green pipe cleaner. Tie the other end of the yarn to the pipe cleaner hoop. Now students have to toss their hoop up and try to catch it on their stick!

3. Wigwam Construction: Engineering


The Wampanoags lived in villages of small round houses called wigwams. Have students construct a wampum dwelling and create their very own village.

What you need:

  • 6 brown pipe cleaners for each child
  • Square pieces of cardboard box for each child
  • Rulers
  • Scissors
  • Circle to trace
  • Pencils
  • Brown construction paper/tree bark sheets
  • School glue

Visit Native Tech to see how a traditional wigwam is constructed. Have students trace the circle template onto their square piece of cardboard. The sample pictured uses only 6 pipe cleaners and is simplified for younger learners. Punch 2 pipe cleaners in at 12 o’clock (about 1 inch apart). Next punch the other end of the pipe cleaners at 6 o’clock on your traced circle. Do the same at 3 and 9 o’clock. Older students can figure out the diameter and circumference of their circular wigwam. Then create 2 hoops around the wigwam, leaving an opening for a door (see image). Once the base is constructed, have students glue on brown pieces of construction paper and tree bark.

4. Woven Medicine Bag: Patterning


Have students practice patterning to create a woven medicine bag. After students create their bag, have them research what type of medicine the Native Americans used. What did they carry in their pouch? Have the students draw items and put their drawings in their pouch.

What you need:

  • Brown construction paper
  • Colored construction paper (kids’ choice)
  • Glue
  • Scotch tape
  • Stapler
  • Yarn
  • Scissors
  • Crayons, markers, or colored pencils for items in the bag

Fold colored paper into eighths and cut the strips out. Next fold the brown paper in half and cut 5 slits in the paper on the fold. Leave about an inch from the top. Take the first colored strip and weave under, over, under, over, then glue. Weave the next strip over, under, over, under, and glue! Fold the edges of your woven paper in and tape. Then fold the bottom up to create a pouch and staple the sides. Finally, fold the top down for the flap. Punch holes on the sides and string yarn through so students can wear the bag around their neck. Now they must add items to their bag!

5. Popsicle Stick Canoe: Nonstandard Measuring


The Wampanoags traveled by foot and canoe. They used quahog shells and bones to smooth out their canoe shape. This fun craft found on Eve of Reduction has children make their own canoe! Can you get your canoe to float?! Once everyone has created their canoe, use their canoes as a non-standard measuring tool. For example, how many canoes long is your desk?

What you need:

  • 3 popsicle sticks for each child
  • Tacky Glue 

First soak your Popsicle sticks in hot water for a few minutes. Next, slightly bend 2 of your Popsicle sticks. Then glue the ends of your 2 Popsicle sticks together. Glue the bent Popsicle stick sides to your straight Popsicle stick to create the floor of your canoe. Let your canoes dry. Now you are ready to measure!

6. Feather Fractions


Integrate math when you construct a turkey by having students figure out the fraction for the colored feathers they incorporated into their design.

What you need:

  • Colored feathers
  • Brown construction paper
  • Circles to trace (head and body)
  • Orange construction paper
  • Scissors
  • School glue
  • Googly eyes 

Have students trace a head and body and glue them together. Next they choose a variety of feathers (or you could have them pull a handful of colored feathers out of a paper bag). Students record the fraction for each of their colored feathers. Then they glue on a small orange triangle beak and googly eyes.

7. Thankful for the People in My Life: Cursive


Children create art and practice their cursive handwriting!

What you need:

  • White construction paper
  • Washable markers 

Students write the names of the individuals that they are thankful for in cursive handwriting. They attach the names so no names are floating on the paper. Then they color in the spaces using whatever color markers they like.

8. Pilgrim Toy: Marble Design (and Math Game)


In the past, marbles were made out of clay. Invite your students to design their very own marbles, then use them to play a traditional Pilgrim game!

Troll My Dame (Pilgrim game): Students try to shoot a marble through numbered tunnels, aiming for the tunnel that has the highest value. This game is great addition practice! For the math game instructions, visit Acorn Pies.

What you need:

  • Crayola air-dry clay, markers or paint (if you use paint, you can use paint pipettes) -OR-
  • Modeling clay in natural colors (no design)

For the game, you will need: cardboard and paint.

Have students roll their clay into a small sphere. Once the clay hardens, have them design their marble using various colored markers. Students could also use paint pipettes to create splatter marbles.

9. Pilgrim Plank Houses: Measuring


The Pilgrims constructed houses and storehouses out of wooden planks. The earliest Plymouth houses had thatched roofs. Later, a law required that new homes be constructed with plank roofs because thatched roofs were highly flammable. All houses had a fire and chimney area because this was the Pilgrims’ only source of heat. Have students create a Thanksgiving town by designing houses at the other end of their Wampanoag village!

What you need:

  • Popsicle sticks
  • Brown paint
  • School Glue
  • Dried grass for the thatched roofs (optional)

Have students work in cooperative learning groups. Students glue Popsicle sticks to create their design.

Examples featured above:
Dee Construction

10. Mayflower Foam Board Ship


Students create a boat that floats and have a racing competition!

What you need:

  • Foam board
  • Pencils
  • White construction paper
  • Crafting wood dowels 

Have children draw the shape they would like for their boat on the foam board using a pencil. A teacher can cut out their shapes using an X-Acto knife. You will want to give the children maximum dimension, instructing children to make their boat a certain size or smaller. That way you have enough foam board for all of the children. Next, have students create their sails (paper and dowels). Then find a body of water and have the students float their boats!

Posted by Erin Bittman

Check out my blog eisforexplore.blogspot.com!


Leave a reply

20 Fun Zoom Games for KidsGet ideas>>