Explore History & Make New Traditions This Thanksgiving!

For many, Thanksgiving is a day for us to remember what we’re thankful for, spend time with family and friends, and enjoy the food and festivities that make this time of year special.

As we reflect on what we are grateful for, and celebrating our families’ traditions in familiar or new ways, let’s also consider the beginnings of this holiday. Incorporating ways to honor and learn about the true story of Thanksgiving, and the authentic stories and histories of Indigenous people in America is a powerful way to give your family a new perspective.

Continue below for educational resources about the history of Thanksgiving, activities and books for encouraging thankfulness and gratitude, programming for all ages, and tips on adapting or creating new family traditions.

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Learning & Teaching History

Explore these PBS resources, for families and educators alike, to incorporate culturally responsive lessons and historical context into your holiday activities.

Thanksgiving: Practicing Gratitude and Honoring the Real Story

Grades PreK-3
This Thanksgiving, help your child build critical thinking skills and give them a true understanding of all there is to be thankful for. Check out this article from PBS Kids for Parents with strategies for teaching about and honoring the true story of Thanksgiving without losing our family traditions.

The First Official Thanksgiving

Grades 3-8
Most people think Thanksgiving was first observed by the Pilgrims in 1621. Explore remote learning-friendly resources that offer evidence that this story is more myth than historical fact.

An Authentic Look at Thanksgiving

Grades 4-8
On the PBSTeachers Blog, Edwin Schupman, an educator from the National Museum Of The American Indian, shares how modern retellings of the first Thanksgiving are mostly fiction and shares resources that help students learn the authentic stories and histories of Indigenous people in America.

Learn more about the National Museum Of The American Indian’s Native Knowledge 360° program which provides educators and students with new perspectives on Native American history and cultures. And for additional resources to help you teach more accurately and think more broadly about the Thanksgiving story, check out these featured resources from NK360° and the museum’s Thanksgiving online resources.

Thanksgiving Through the Lens of Native Americans Today: Lesson Plan | PBS NewsHour

Grades 6-12
Is it possible to celebrate Thanksgiving while learning about the effects of colonization on Indigenous people? Ask students to discuss the meaning of Thanksgiving through the lens of today’s Wampanoag people, the descendants of Indigenous tribes who welcomed the Pilgrims at Plymouth.

The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods | It’s Okay to Be Smart

Grades 6-12
Ever wonder where your favorite Thanksgiving foods come from? Well the truth may be closer to home than you think.


Celebrating Together

Thanksgiving can be a wonderful time for families to share traditions and spend time with each other – but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. PBS Kids for Parents is here to help you navigate, adapt and celebrate this holiday season.

Celebrating the Holidays (and the Every Day!) With New Traditions

As we head into another year of the COVID-19 pandemic, here are ways people all over the country are creating new traditions to help shape their family’s celebrations.

Raising Grateful Kids: Why Giving Thanks Is Good for the Soul

Gratitude is good for you ⎯ and for your kids. Here are helpful tips for raising grateful kids.

Simple Family-Friendly Thanksgiving Traditions

Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to take a moment and be grateful. Learn how these families made special traditions of their own.


Activities, Books & More

Thankful Tree Centerpiece

Grades PreK-3
Celebrate the beauty of fall by creating a festive centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table!
Your child will love to help draw, cut out, and color the paper leaves. This family activity will give them a chance to see just how much they have to be grateful for.

Thanksgiving Estimation Jars

Grades PreK-3
Thanksgiving is just around the corner! Use the holiday to spark an interest in more than just turkey and pumpkin pie with this Thanksgiving Estimation Jars activity.

Thanksgiving Tales

Grades PreK-5
Thanksgiving is about more than the turkey! Here are ten recommended books for kids ages 0-9 that celebrate sharing, community, and family.

An Elwood City Thanksgiving Game

Grades K-5
Celebrate Thanksgiving with Arthur, his family, and some of his Elwood City neighbors in the all-new game An Elwood City Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Time Capsule

Grades K-5
Teaching young children about being thankful can be tricky! Thankfulness is an abstract concept and kids thrive with concrete ideas. This hands-on activity is a great way for kids and families to learn about and model the idea of thankfulness.

Design a Poster to Honor the Indigenous Lands You Live On

Grades 1-8
Have you ever wondered about the Indigenous lands you live on? Spend some time as a family discovering the history and culture of the tribes who cultivated the lands you live on and design a poster to honor them.

The Chemistry of Tender Turkey

Grades 6-12
In this video excerpt from NOVA scienceNOW, learn about the chemistry behind brining meat. Correspondent and New York Times technology columnist David Pogue explores how the process of brining can ensure a tender and moist cooked turkey. A raw turkey is mostly water, but the muscle fibers of the meat dry out as the meat is cooking. Guy Crosby of America’s Test Kitchen demonstrates how soaking a raw turkey in salt water adds moisture to the meat through the process of osmosis. Pogue participates in a taste test to identify samples of turkey cooked with and without brining.

StoryCorps: The Great Thanksgiving Listen

Grades 6-12
The Great Thanksgiving Listen
is a national movement that empowers young people—and people of all ages—to create an oral history of the contemporary United States by recording an interview with an elder, mentor, friend, or someone they admire. Using the free StoryCorps App, interviews become part of the StoryCorps Archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Educators, for resources on how to introduce the project in your classroom, interview tips and more, visit the StoryCorps: The Great Thanksgiving Listen Collection on PBS LearningMedia. Or visit the StoryCorps educator’s resource hub.


Learning at Home Programming

For Thanksgiving this year, check out the Mountain Lake PBS Learning at Home block! Join us as we learn about the history of the Pilgrims — from their journey out of England, to their settlement at Plymouth Colony in modern-day Provincetown, and beyond.

Wednesday, November 24
1 PM: American Experience⎪The Pilgrims

Arguably one of the most fateful and resonant events of the last half millennium, the Pilgrims journey west across the Atlantic in the early 17th century is a seminal, if often misunderstood episode of American and world history. The Pilgrims explores the forces, circumstances, personalities and events that converged to exile the English group in Holland and eventually propel their crossing to the New World; a story universally familiar in broad outline, but almost entirely unfamiliar to a general audience in its rich and compelling historical actuality.

Check out The Pilgrims: AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Collection on PBS LearningMedia for a suite of educational resources related to the film. The media resources in this collection feature historical reenactments and expert interviews that tell the Pilgrims’ story from both European and Native perspectives.


PBS Kids Family Movie Night

It’s time again to gather the gang for a PBS Kids Family Movie Night, a weekly family viewing event featuring movie specials and fun, themed programming! Enjoy special holiday stories of gratitude with some of your favorite PBS Kids shows in a Thanksgiving Celebration.

Catch it all on the PBS Kids 24/7 channel, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, November 19 through 21. Or online, with the PBS Kids Free Video App.

Arthur
“An Arthur Thanksgiving”
6 and 8 PM

Arthur and his family are getting ready for Thanksgiving and it couldn’t be busier! Dad’s whipping up his famous turkey dinner while the Lakewood Elementary kids are preparing for the annual Thanksgiving parade. But, when things start to go off course, Arthur and his friends must find a way to save the Thanksgiving celebration. Join in the excitement with this one-hour Arthur special.

Wild Kratts
“Happy Turkey Day”
7 PM

The Wild Kratts are on a mission to defend the honor of the wild turkey and to stop Gourmand, who is hunting for the largest, fattest turkey in the forest. As they work out how to stop him, they also help the crew to learn to differentiate wild turkeys from domesticated turkeys and about their amazing abilities. With the help of Wild Kratts kids Ronan, Gavin and Aidan, the Kratt Brothers must protect the turkey habitat from Gourmand before he captures a turkey as one of the most important ingredients for his meal.

Cyberchase
“Giving Thanks Day”
7:30 PM – Friday and Saturday

It’s Giving Thanks Day in Cyberspace! The CyberSquad is excited to celebrate together with a meal featuring Jackie’s famous pumpkin pie. But, there’s a big problem – all the pristine produce in Cornucopia is sold out for the season! The last customer was none other than… Hacker. Hacker is busy preparing his own spectacular meal, but he refuses to share any extra fruits and vegetables. With only unwanted, dented, and bruised produce left at the farm, can the CyberSquad pull off a successful Giving Thanks Day feast? Or is there more to food than meets the eye?

Charlie Brown
“A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving”
7:30 PM – Sunday

Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang are coming to Mountain Lake PBS this Thanksgiving season! Peppermint Patty invites everyone to Charlie Brown’s for Thanksgiving, even though he’s going to see his grandmother. Snoopy decides to cook his own version of a Thanksgiving meal with help from his friends.

Martha Speaks
“Martha’s Thanksgiving”
9 PM

When Martha learns that Helen’s extended family will be coming for Thanksgiving, she decides to search for her own long-lost canine siblings. Tails begin to wag as the family reunites, but where is Martha’s mother? In part-two of the episode, Martha is still in search of her mother and digs into her past to uncover the reason they were separated. Can Martha and her friends solve the mystery and find her mom in time for the family reunion?

WordGirl
“Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner / Judging Butcher”
9:30 PM

In “Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner,” after an unfortunate turn of events at the grocery store, Tobey and his mother become the guests of honor at the Botsford’s Thanksgiving dinner. Becky is less than thrilled to be sharing a table with her one of her secret nemeses, and Tobey would rather be spending Thanksgiving with WordGirl (little does he know he is!) And in “Judging Butcher,” Becky’s best friend Violet may be great at drawing and painting, but when it comes to singing, well, let’s just say it isn’t her forte. But when Violet tells Becky that she is going to audition for The City’s Got Too Much Talent, Becky doesn’t have the heart to tell her it isn’t a good idea. To make things even worse, the show has a new judge – The Butcher!