The Mayflower Compact
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the philanthropic ideas embedded in a nation's founding documents.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.

The purpose of this lesson is to illustrate how the Pilgrims were influenced in developing a community and American democracy. Using primary source documents, this lesson will take a look at the Mayflower Compact and its origins, and will discuss the story of The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving.

PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • use primary source documents to explain how the Mayflower Compact became the first written framework of government established in the United States.
  • define the terms body politic, equal laws, ordinances, covenant and Constitution.
  • describe how the story of the Pilgrims is a story of community and the common good.
  • A Thanksgiving story to read to the class (see Bibliography)
  • The Mayflower Compact (handout below), learner copies
  • Pastor John Robinson’s Farewell Letter to the Pilgrims (handout below), learner copies
  • Journals

​History Channel Click on the following titles: Mayflower Compact, Plymouth Colony, Thanksgiving

Journey of the Mayflower. Plimouth Plantation

Mayflower History This Web site contains a Thanksgiving information page, a Girls on the Mayflower page, Common Myths , Religious Beliefs of the Pilgrims and Frequently Asked Questions from Students pages.

McGovern, Ann. The Pilgrims' First Thanksgiving . New York: Scholastic; Reissue edition (October 1993). ISBN: 0590461885

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the learners to think back to the Pilgrims who came to the New World on the Mayflower. Conduct a quick brainstorming session in which the learners list reasons why the Pilgrims are remembered in American history.

  2. Read a story of Thanksgiving to the class (see Bibliographical References).

  3. Distribute The Mayflower Compact handout. Explain that because the Mayflower anchored in Plymouth harbor, the patent from the London Company was invalid in New England. As a result the Pilgrims drew up an agreement called the Mayflower Compact, which pledged allegiance to the English king but established a form of government by the will of the majority. Patents were obtained from the Council for New England in 1621 and in 1630, but the Mayflower Compact remained the basis of the colony’s government until union with Massachusetts Bay colony in 1691. Read The Mayflower Compact out loud.

  4. Distribute the handout Pastor John Robinson’s Farewell Letter to the Pilgrims. Divide the learners into four groups. Assign one of the passages to each group to read and have them write what Pastor Robinson was trying to say to the Pilgrims in the passage. When all groups have finished, read each section out loud and let each group explain how Pastor Robinson’s words were used in writing the Compact. Have the learners define covenantbody politicequal lawsordinances and Constitution in their own words.

  5. Discuss the role of the Native Americans in helping the Pilgrims. Discuss how the Native Americans and Pilgrims worked together for the common good of the community.

  6. As a summary of the lesson, ask the learners to write about the following topic in their journals: The story of the Pilgrims is an example of community and the common good.


The journal entry and group work may be used as an assessment of learning.