The Mayflower Compact

3, 4, 5

We learn how different groups coming together for the good of all established the Mayflower Compact. This brief agreement was the first document of its kind designed to bring a community together to focus on the common good. This may be a model for a group agreement written by the participants.

PrintOne 45-Minute Session

Describe how the Mayflower Compact contributed to the common good.


Copy of the Mayflower Compact (handout below)


Write an exit ticket sentence that completes this sentence, "One way I can give my time, talent, or treasure for the common good of my classroom, school, or community is..."


Website for the Mayflower Compact document: 


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    In 1620, when the Mayflower ship landed in Massachusetts, the different factions coming to the new land with very different ideas started fighting about their vision for their new community. They realized quickly they needed a written agreement to establish rules and practices that would promote the good of all. This is the origin of the Mayflower Compact, which influenced the Constitution. Note: the Founding Fathers were also influenced by Native American governments, including the Iroquois confederacy.

  2. Define compact (a solemn binding agreement). Read the Mayflower Compact aloud with the participants, paragraph by paragraph, making sure they understand the language and discussing the importance of what is being said. The following questions may be used to stress significant issues:

    • What reasons were given for the creation of the document?
    • What did they agree to do?
    • What words in the document show the seriousness of the persons who signed it?
    • What was so important about the Mayflower Compact that it is still studied as part of our history? (first agreement to create self-government in America)
  3. Reflect on the impact of the document on the new society. Read online about survival in the Plimouth settlement to gain information.

    • Do you think the new colony would have survived just as well without it? Why or why not?
    • In what ways was the Mayflower Compact a call to be philanthropic (giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good)?"
  4. Discuss "Do our current government documents and society call us to 'give for the common good' (philanthropy)?" Why is "for the common good" an important part of any community?


The students write a three-paragraph summary explaining what the Mayflower compact stated, why it was created, and how it helped them survive in a new and unfamiliar land. Their essay may contain some connections to present day society while associating with the impact on the Pilgrims. Content is the only concern for this lesson. A further assessment may be made on the writing style.

Cross Curriculum 

Hold a discussion about an issue that the students care about and may be improved with a focus on the common good. The students may write and sign a specific agreement in which they all agree to give time, talent, or treasure for the common good related to that issue.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.