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Culturally Aware Thanksgiving

Updated: Nov 13, 2023

Pilgrims and Turkeys and Pies … oh my! Thanksgiving is a time-honored tradition in the United States, marked by reflection, gratitude, and community. In schools nationwide, educators have a unique opportunity to leverage this holiday to foster inclusivity, cultural awareness, and respect for diverse backgrounds. By integrating culturally appropriate activities, you can model an environment that celebrates the spirit of Thanksgiving while honoring the diverse tapestry of our society.

Holiday History

Providing students with a balanced and accurate historical context of the holiday should be at the forefront of the holiday celebrations. Don’t be afraid to discuss the complex relationship between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans to open up conversations about colonization, indigenous cultures, and the importance of empathy and understanding in today’s world. Encouraging critical thinking and respectful dialogue allows students to engage with history in a meaningful way and shows them we can discuss sensitive topics with respect in a safe space.


Highlight Native American Heritage

Thanksgiving offers a unique opportunity to highlight Native American cultures and contributions and those who inhabited the land before European arrival. Educators can invite guest speakers from local tribes to share stories, traditions, and perspectives and integrate Native American literature, art, and music into their curriculum. This provides students with a richer understanding of the cultures that played a crucial role in the history of Thanksgiving.


Gratitude and Service

Fostering a spirit of gratitude and service aligns with the essence of Thanksgiving. Educators can organize community service projects, encouraging students to give back and reflect on the importance of kindness and generosity. Activities such as writing thank you letters to community heroes or creating care packages for those in need help instill a sense of responsibility and compassion in students.


Reflecting on Modern Thanksgiving

Discussing the modern celebrations of Thanksgiving provides a platform for students to reflect on what the holiday means to them. Educators can facilitate discussions and activities that explore the different ways people celebrate, acknowledging that some may choose not to celebrate at all. Friendsgiving has also taken the holiday by force, allowing the family we choose to share time together. Providing a space for all voices to be heard ensures that every student feels seen and respected.


As educators, the role of fostering an inclusive and respectful learning environment is paramount, especially during holidays. By integrating culturally appropriate activities and providing a balanced historical context, you can guide students toward a deeper understanding of gratitude, community, and respect for diversity that honors all cultures and perspectives. This not only enriches the learning experience but also lays the groundwork for a more inclusive and compassionate school society and future citizens.


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