Life on Plymouth Plantation

Have you ever wondered what life was like 375 years ago in America? What did the men, women, and children first see and experience when they landed at Plymouth Rock in 1620? These brave people left their homes in England to escape religious persecution by immigrating to America!

What if you and your family felt the need to fly to Jupiter and attempt to start a new life? Your family members would have no idea where they were going, what type of climate they would find, what they were going to eat, or if there were any hostile creatures living there already. Wouldn't that be scary? This was a scary but adventurous time in American history.

Were the Pilgrims the first people to inhabit America? Actually, the Native American Indian tribes had already lived in what came to be called America for hundreds of years before the first European settlers immigrated in 1620.

View Teacher Notes

The Task

In this activity you will be discovering about the early Americans by looking at a recreation of Plymouth Plantation in 1627. Also, you will be looking at a variety of maps, both modern and maps from the 17th century. Using these sources, you will be answering questions, discovering life in early America and writing a series of letters.

After taking a virtual tour of Plymouth Plantation you will assume the character of a child who traveled to the New World aboard the Mayflower. The child you are portraying is an actual historical person who came from England to the New World in 1620. As many Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower did, you will send letters to your friends and family back in England. In your letters you will explain what Plymouth is like and you will advise your family back in England as to what they should bring with them when they make their journey over.

You will also be looking up and recording the definitions of any underlined words you find throughout the activity.

The Process


Describe what the roof, interior walls exterior walls, windows, and the yards looked like in each dwelling. Make a chart like the one below for each of the five dwellings in Plymouth Plantation.

Here are the sites for each of the five dwellings:


After completing each of the charts above, write a list of the main differences between each of the dwellings.

The Bastion

The Kitchen

Plimoth plantation hearth cooking

Transportation and Housing


See these sites for faming in Plimoth colony



To complete this activity you will need the following materials:

Learning Advice

To help you stay organized, keep the following items next to the computer:


You will be evaluated based on your performance in the following areas:


Life in early America was obviously not easy. The brave Pilgrims that came to America in 1620 faced many difficulties and hardships. They fought and struggled for their survival and in doing so were pioneers for the young country of America.

Now, take out the brainstorm from STEP 1. See what your first thoughts about early life in America. Add the new information you learned to your brainstorm. If the information you first wrote down was incorrect, go ahead a cross it out and replace it with the correct information.

Extension Activities

  1. Here is a list of several books about life in early America:
  2. Read about many important people who lived in Plymouth Plantation on the Internet.
  3. Read interesting information about the Pilgrims settlement from the Native American point of view
  4. Research Thanksgiving and have fun doing some great Thanksgiving crafts and recipes.
  5. E-Mail questions about the Mayflower to Caleb Johnson, a descendent of the original Mayflower passengers.

Teacher Notes

Grade Level/Unit:
Grade Three: Continuity and Change
Our Nation's History

Purpose of Lesson:
The purpose of this lesson is to enable young students to research and gain an understanding of what life was like on Plymouth Plantation in early colonial America. Using maps, students will gain an understanding of where the pilgrims came from as students trace their journey from England to Plymouth. Students will also study the geographical features and climate of the Plymouth area.

H/SS Standards, Grade 5: Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era, in terms of:

  1. the influence of location and physical setting on the founding of the original 13 colonies, their location on a map along with the location of the American Indian nations already inhabiting these areas
  2. the major individuals and groups responsible for the founding of the various colonies and the reasons for their founding (e.g., John Smith and Virginia, Roger Williams and Rhode Island, William Penn and Pennsylvania, Lord Baltimore and Maryland, William Bradford and Plymouth, John Winthrop and Massachusetts)

Language Arts Standards Grade 5: Reading Comprehension: Students read and understand grade-level-appropriate material. They recall major points in text and extract appropriate and significant information from text. They ask questions and support answers by connecting prior knowledge with literal and inferential information found in text, [and they] demonstrate comprehension by identifying answers in text. Writing Strategies: Students write personal...letters...that consider the audience, purpose, and context, address knowledge and interests of the audience...[and]include the date, proper salutation, body, closing and signature.

Length of Lesson:
This lesson is highly adjustable in length. To complete the entire lesson as written would take approximately 10 to 12 hours. Each "STEP" can be accomplished in approximately one hour with the exception of the "letter writing activity."

Teacher Materials:
The teacher materials are the same as the student materials listed in the student activity: pencil and paper, a world map, a United States map, ENCARTA Atlas (optional), and markers.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

English/language arts:

Other Social Studies Links:

Plymouth Gallery News Photos

Science: Climate maps and oceanography

Mathematics: Calculation of travel time

Adaptations for Special Needs:
This lesson is designed with several "STEPS," many of which do not need to be followed exactly as they are written. To adapt this lesson to a variety of student levels, the teacher can use one or more of the following suggestions:

Background Information and Additional Teacher Resources:

Look in the Extension Activities section of the student activity for further resources. NOTE: The link to the Native American point of view needs some teacher direction due to the controversial nature of the information.


Author: Linda M. Ricchiuti - CTAP Curriculum Specialist
School District: San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools Office
School Address: 601 North E Street, San Bernardino CA 92410

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Last Revised 11/14/06