The Mayflower Compact—Freedom Contract

3, 4, 5

Students look at The Mayflower Compact and recognize that freedom to assemble and worship was the “Pilgrim's” main goal—worth all the opportunity costs. Students analyze the first amendment of the Constitution to recognize that freedom is a fundamental right in the United States.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • explain why Pilgrims wanted to be free.
  • explain why the right to assemble is important—even when we personally don't agree with the reason for assembling.
  • identify the words in The Mayflower Compact and the first Amendment of the Constitution that express the right to freedom of assembly.
  • Student copies of The Mayflower Compact and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution - see handout below: Two Historical Documents and bibliography
  • Chart paper
  • Journals
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Using The Mayflower Compact and the First Amendment as a model, ask families to write a compact, or agreement, at home that will ensure the rights of all family members and that everyone can agree upon.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Just before recess, tell the students that you will allow them to play what, where and with whom they wish today. Tell them that along with this freedom, they have the responsibility to play fairly, share, use kind words and treat each other with respect at all times.

    Teacher Note: The teacher should be especially sensitive to those students who may be regularly excluded from group play.

  2. When students return from recess, ask them how they felt when they had the freedom to play with whom (and what) they wanted. Write down their key words on chart paper. Discuss which of these words relate to the feelings of the pilgrims.

  3. Ask the students how the pilgrims might have felt when their ship finally anchored by the shore of America. Tell the students that after the pilgrims' long journey, the first thing they did before they got off the ship was to write down an agreement that expressed what was most important to them in their new home. Ask the students to predict what they might have written.

  4. Give students copies of The Mayflower Compact .

  5. Ask the students to find and highlight the words that establish a form of local government in which the colonists agree to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good of the colony.

  6. Discuss why this was important to them. Ask the students whether this is still important in the United States. Relate the writing to the concept of common good.

  7. Give students copies of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

  8. Ask the students to find and highlight the words that express the freedom to assemble.

  9. Ask the students to support this freedom in the face of causes they disagree with.

  10. Discuss how all religious groups and other groups have the right to assemble, march, protest and express their opinions. Sometimes this is difficult because people don't have the same opinions, but it is a right that we must respect because we don't want our government making decisions about what is okay or not okay to talk about. For that reason, our founding fathers limited the power of government.

  11. Talk about the meaning of specific rights guaranteed by the Constitution including religious liberty, free expression, privacy, property, due process of law and equal protection of the law. Provide illustrations or examples of these from magazines, newspapers or other sources (i.e. pictures of a variety of places of worship, pictures or examples of a variety of magazines with different points of view, etc.). Discuss how these relate to the Core Democratic Values.

  12. Discuss the language in the two documents. Discuss how language expression has changed over time and for different purposes.

  13. Put students in groups to role-play the writing of The Mayflower Compact. Assign a few roles and let them improvise a discussion among the pilgrims about how they will organize and make decisions to protect their freedoms in the new land.


Have students write in their journals from the point of view of a pilgrim who has just stepped off the Mayflower. The journals should include their perspective on The Mayflower Compact , freedom and their hopes for a new “government” in the new world.

Assess their journals using the following 5-point scoring guide:

5 points Journal entries clearly demonstrate an understanding of the lesson and use five or more adjectives and/or comments discussed in class.

4 points Journal entries demonstrate an understanding of the lesson and use three or four adjectives and/or comments discussed in class.

3 points Journal entries somewhat demonstrate an understanding of the lesson and use at least two adjectives and/or comments discussed in class.

2 points Journal entries demonstrate a lack of understanding of the lesson but use at least one adjective and/or comment discussed in class.

1 point Journal entry shows no understanding, but an attempt has been made to make a journal entry.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.6 Identify lack of religious, economic, or political freedom as a motivating factor for migration to a new country.