Subtopic: Thanksgiving - A Focus on Clothing
Grade Level: 1st - 3rd
Author: Melissa Dove

Note: This mini-unit is intended to go along with a unit on Thanksgiving


One group of people that came to live in America from another country were the Pilgrims. The Pilgrims were from England. They were unhappy in their homeland because they were not allowed to attend the church of their choice. In September of 1620, a ship called the Mayflower set sail for North America. There were 102 people aboard the ship.

In November of 1620, the Pilgrims stopped along the coast of Massachusetts. It wasn't until December of 1620 that they left their ship and started to build their community in a place called Plymouth. The Pilgrims experienced a rough Winter that year. When it was over, more than half of their group had died. When Spring came the Pilgrims made friends with an Indian named Squanto. Squanto introduced the Pilgrims to the Wampanoags. The Wampanoags helped the pilgrims build better houses and taught them how to hunt for food. They also helped them plant and grow food.

The Pilgrims decided to celebrate their first harvest. They invited the Wampanoags to join them for a feast. The feast lasted for three days. Each group brought plenty of food to share. The pilgrims gave thanks to God and the Wampanoags.

The Pilgrims and Wampanoags dressed different than we do today. All their clothing had to be handmade. The Pilgrims and Wampanoags Clothing was also very different from each others. The Wampanoags wore hardly any clothing and the Pilgrims wore as much as possible. A lot of people believe that the Pilgrims wore dark clothes. This is not true. Rich people wore red, purple, or gold. The pilgrims that were not as wealthy wore brown, yellow, and other bright colors. Servants often dressed in blue. The Pilgrim men and boys wore long-sleeved shirts, woolen jackets called doublets, and pants called breeches. The women wore bonnets, collars, and jacket or vests over their dresses. On cold days, the Pilgrims wore red or purple capes.

When the Pilgrims were traveling to America on the Mayflower they didn't have enough water to wash their clothes. Most of them never changed at all. They wore the same clothes the whole trip.
During meal times, the Pilgrim men and boys were allowed to keep their hats on. The only time they had to take them off was when a toast was being made.

When the Pilgrims first saw the Wampanoags they had very little clothing on. They decorated themselves with beads, seashells, paint, and bear grease. The Pilgrims thought decorating yourself was sinful. The Wampanoags made their clothing from animal skins. Some of these animals were buffalos, deer, and animals. The women are the ones who made the clothing for their family. The women and girls usually wore long dresses and sometimes leggings. In the warm weather, and when the Indian men were hunting or fighting, the men wore only a strip of leather, called a breechcloth, and a pair of moccasins. Boys did not wear clothing in warm weather until they were eight years old. In the winter time, the Wampanoags wore robes made from buffalo. They wore the robes with the fur side in.

The Wampanoags used beads to decorate buckskin clothing. They would also string and weave them to make necklaces, collars, medallions, and other accessories. The Wampanoags also weaved blankets to wrap around them in times of need. The wool for the blankets came from sheep. The sheep's wool was also used to make rugs and clothing. To make the wool different colors, the Wampanoags had to dye the wool. They used plant materials to make the different colors.

Today all Indians and Pilgrims do not dress like they did during the First Thanksgiving. It is important to let students know their are many different Indian tribes, and they all have their own characteristics. The tribe of Indians they will learn about in this mini-unit are the Wampanoag Indians. These Indians lived in the Northeast part of the United States. They were the first Indians to help the Pilgrims in America.


Banks, J. et al. (1993). Communities Near and Far. New York: Macmillan.

Banks, J. et al. (1993). People and Neighborhoods. New York: Macmillan.

Banks, J. et al. (1993). Regions Near and Far. New York: Macmillan.

Calloway, C. (1991). Indians of the Northeast. New York: Facts on File.

Penner, L. (1991). Eating the Plates. New York: Macmillan.

Weinstein-Farson, L. (1989). The Wampanoag. New York: Chelsea.

Teacher's Friend. (November). The Pilgrim Story.



* Students will understand that people have the same basic personal needs, such as clothing and food.

* Students will recognize that the Indians used the natural resources around them to meet their needs.

* Students will be able to Identify the Wampanoag as the Indians who helped the Pilgrims.


Time Allotment: Approximately 4 to 5 class periods.

Resources Needed:

Letter to parents in Appendix
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola
Tapenum's Day by Kate Waters
Something From Nothing by Phoebe Gilman
Sarah Morton's Day by Kate Waters
Tie-dye materials - (See Appendix 2 and 3)
Blanket weaving - (See Appendix 4)
The Wampanoag by Laurie Weinstein-Farson
Jewelry making materials - (See Appendix 5)
Material and other sewing supplies to make clothing by hand
Grocery Bags (Brown, paper bags)



*Note: Before this unit on clothing is taught, the students should be taught about the Pilgrims coming to America and meeting the Wampanoags.


A. Anticipatory Set. Explain to the students that for the next week they will be learning about the types of clothing that the Wampanoags and Pilgrims wore for the First Thanksgiving. During the week, the students will learn how they made their clothing. The students will be making clothing similar to the Pilgrims and Wampanoags for their own classroom Thanksgiving Feast.

B .Brainstorm. Ask the student what they think the Pilgrims and Wampanoags wore for the First Thanksgiving. List these ideas on the board under two headings, Pilgrims and Wampanoags. Ask students what they think the clothing was made of, and how they made it?

C. Mini-Lecture. Explain to the students that all the clothing that the Pilgrims and Wampanoags wore had to be made by hand. Explain to them that they didn't have sewing machines like we do, and they didn't have stores to go shopping at. All the material that they used to make their clothing came from animals. Talk about the different clothing that was made from various animals. Explain to students that the Pilgrims and Wampanoags had to dye their clothing with natural resources such as plants and foods.
Read the picture book The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, by Tomie dePaola. Before reading, ask students to look for ways that Little Gopher makes colors to paint with.

D. Hands-On. Students will see how Wampanoags made dye the for their clothing. The Wampanoags made dyes out of plants and certain foods (See Appendix - 2). After the dye is made, students will use the T-Shirt they brought from home (See Appendix - 1) to learn how to tie-dye clothing with the natural dyes (See Appendix - 3).

E. Hands-On. Students will learn how the Wampanoags made rugs and blankets through weaving (See Appendix - 4). Remind students that the Wampanoags got their yarn from sheep.

F. Mini-Lecture. Show the student the bead work made by the Wampanoags in the book The Wampanoag. Explain to the students that the Wampanoags used the beads to decorate their clothing, to make necklaces and other accessories.

G. Hands-On. Students will learn how to make Wampanoag jewelry out of yarn and macaroni noodles (Appendix - 5). They can make necklaces and wristbands with the noodles and yarn.

H. Anticipatory Setting Read Tapenum's Day to the students to show them what it would have been like to be a Wampanoag. Have them look closely at the pictures to see how the Wampanoags dressed.

I. Hands-On. Students will make a Wampanoag outfit for the Thanksgiving feast. The boys can make breechclouts (loincloth) out of a grocery store bag and string. The girls can make a dress out of grocery bags also. The girls may need to make a top and a skirt. Have some of the macaroni noodles available so they can add them to their clothing.

J. Mini-Lecture. Review with students that the Wampanoags and Pilgrims had to make their own clothing. Explain how some of the Pilgrims only had one outfit. Read Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman. Explain to students that this could be how the pilgrims made their clothing. You could also read Sarah Morton's Day to show students how the pilgrims dressed.

K. Hands-On. Students will make a Pilgrim outfit out of material. You may wish to ask parents to donate material and other sewing materials.

L. Culminating Activity. Thanksgiving Feast. On the last day of the mini-unit, have a Thanksgiving Feast with other classrooms. Have each classroom bring an assigned food. This will show the students how the Pilgrims and Wampanoags shared their food. Have half of the classes dress up like Wampanoags, and the other half dress up like Pilgrims. Tape long black butcher paper in the middle of the classroom hallway for a table. Have teachers, room mothers, or volunteers help with the preparation of the food. Some ideas for food are; Popcorn, Cranberry Sauce, Corn on the Cob, Homemade Bread, Pumpkin Pudding/Pie, Corn Bread.

M. Review. During the Thanksgiving Feast, review with the students the things they have learned this last week about the Pilgrims, Wampanoags and the First Thanksgiving.
Some things you could go over with the students are:
-What tribe of Indians helped the Pilgrims?
-You could review with the students how the Pilgrims and the Wampanoags both had the same basic needs. Ask the children what these needs were.

The clothing the students make during the week will be assessed.
The excitement of the students (students interest) will be assessed.
Responses to discussion questions during review will be assessed.


1. Letter to Parents - Send this letter out one week prior to the time you will need the T-shirt. You may also want to send a reminder the day before it is required.

Dear Parents,

We are doing a unit on Thanksgiving and the importance of celebrating this holiday. Next week we will be discussing the different types of clothing that the Pilgrims and Indians wore. We will be doing a tie-dye activity, where your student will be dying a T-shirt in natural dyes like the Wampanoag Indians made. I would love for every child to be able to participate in this activity. If it is possible would you send a white T-shirt to school with your student by Monday. This does not have to be a new shirt, it can be an old one. If your child is unable to bring a T-Shirt, any type of cloth will do. If there are any problems or concerns please feel free to call me.
Thank you for your cooperation.

(Put your name here)

2. Making Dye out of Natural Resources.

food to make dyes the color of your choice

large boiling pots


A. The following plants and foods will make natural dyes when boiled in water:

Red - cherries, birch bark (gathered from the ground), cranberries
Yellow - goldenrod, onion skin, willow tree leaves, marigolds, orange peels
Rose - willow bark (gathered from ground), fresh beets
Purple - blackberries, elderberries
Blue - red cabbage leaves, sunflower seeds
Green - carrot tops, grass clippings, spinach, moss
Tan - walnut shells, tea leaves, instant coffee

B. An approximate proportion of water to food is three parts water to two parts food.

C. The water and food need to be brought to a full boil, then simmered for at least one hour to make dye strong enough to color the desired objects.

D. The dyes may turn out pale. You may wish to add commercial food coloring to the natural dye in order to make a dye strong enough for all materials.

3. How to tie-dye a T-shirt (or other clothing)

large bowls to dip cloth into

natural dyes

rubber bands



A. Make the dye solution.

B. All students need cloth of some type.

C. Students will twist a little section of their fabric tightly to make a finger-like projection.

D. Place a rubber band over the projection to keep it tight.

E. Place the tip of the projection in the dye of your choice.

F. Repeat the above procedure with many different projections.

G. When the students are complete with the different colors of dye, they will have created a beautiful new cloth that they can later turn into a useful item (i.e. t-shirt, handkerchief).

4. Information for weaving can be found in the book Knits, Knots and Stitches.

5. Jewelry, necklaces and bracelets made of macaroni noodles

*How to the make colored noodles:

macaroni noodles (large or small)
food coloring
cookie sheet


Place noodles in strainer. Slightly dampen the noodles. Do not get noodles too wet, they will become soggy if they get too much water. Pour noodles into bowl. Drop food coloring into bowl and mix noodles. Add as many food coloring drops you'd like until the noodles are the desired color. Next, lay the noodles out on a cookie sheet. Let them dry.

*How to make the necklaces:

colored noodles





To make necklaces, cut a piece of yarn long enough, so that after putting the noodles on you can still tie a big bow in the back. The necklaces should hang down to about mid-chest or a little lower. The yarn for the bracelets should be cut long enough to wrap around your wrist with a big bow at the end.
After you have cut your yarn, place a piece of tape around one end of the yarn to make a type of needle point to go through the noodle holes. On the other end of the yarn, tie a bow and place tape around the center of it. This is so the noodles don't go on one end and off the other.
Now that you have your yarn ready, just start threading noodles onto it. When you have finished, remove the tape and the bow. Be sure to hold onto both sides tightly. Tie a big double bow in the back, and you have a wonderful necklace or bracelet.

Appendix References:

Appendix 2 and 3
Fall into Math and Science. (1987). AIMS Education Foundation.

Appendix 4
Knits, Knots and Stitches.

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