The Mayflower Compact Started It

3, 4, 5

This lesson introduces 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 classroom agreement written by the students.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five to Fifty Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define compact.
  • analyze the value of the Mayflower Compact on the welfare of the colony.
  • describe how the Mayflower Compact contributed to the common good.

Copy of the Mayflower Compact (Handout One)


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:

    Tell the students to imagine they are explorers together in a new and uninhabited land. Ask them to brainstorm for a few minutes what they will need in this wilderness. (Distinguishing between needs and wants.) How will they get it? Who will get it? Who is going to decide what needs to be done? Allow discussion long enough for students to see people may act selfishly and they will all do better if they consider what is good for all.

    Tell them that all of these questions and more were on the minds of the Pilgrims as they landed at their new home. They created and signed theMayflower Compact document, which is the first government document in the new land, to focus on survival and the common good (collaboration for the benefit of all).

  2. Give background information on the Pilgrims and their voyage leading up to the creation of the Compact. (See Bibliography.)

  3. Define compact(a solemn binding agreement). Read the Mayflower Compact aloud with the students, paragraph by paragraph, making sure students 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)
  4. Ask students to think about 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)?"
  5. 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?

  6. Have the students write a three-paragraph summary of the intent of the Mayflower Compact and the importance of putting the common good first then and today. They should include what it states, why it was created, and what is its value then and today.


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.