Five Ideas For Thanksgiving That Aren’t Handprint Turkeys

The YD Education team inspired this week’s list of Thanksgiving ideas with their Education Learning Community Newsletter. You don’t get it? Sign up ASAP!

I don’t know about you, but September crawled by slow as a snail, then October was quick as a lightning strike, and now in two weeks it is Thanksgiving. If you’ve had a meeting with me recently, you’ve probably heard me say that T̶̲͐Ì̸̙M̴͍͌Ę̵̿ ̶̖͆I̵͕͝Ș̴̀ ̵͇̾A̶̞͒ ̴͉̔FL̸͉͠A̸̩͛T̴̹̿ ̵̰̆C̸͔̅I̴͖̓R̶̯̿Ĉ̶̮L̷̻̆E̵̢͊ ̸̯͘Ŕ̵̰Ī̸̖G̴̲͂H̶̠̃T̷͋ͅ ̴̤̉N̵̖͆O̵͙͠Ẅ̵̮́ and it remains one of the truest things I say. And yet, the calendar moves forward, and Thanksgiving is upon us! Here’s a mix of fun activities for throughout the Clubhouse.

Happy How I Met Your Mother GIF by WGN America - Find & Share on GIPHY

Make history come alive by learning who’s land your Club is on.

Native American tribes were spread across the country before European settlers arrived. Learn which tribal land your Clubhouse is on with the Native Land Digital app, then dig deeper. Is there anyone from the local tribal nation that could come to your Clubhouse to share their cultural traditions? Consider having older youth complete research projects on aspects of their culture to present to the group.

This site includes fact lists on many tribes and is reader-friendly for youth from around age 8 or 9 or so.

The Wampanoag people are who originally were encountered by the Pilgrims. If you talk about the first Thanksgiving, be sure to include their role, and name them. The Wampanoag languages almost disappeared, but there are projects to relearn and revitalize them for modern speakers. Consider exploring language resources, including animal words for younger youth, and allow older youth to explore sound archives.

For teen programming, here are a list of resources from Learning For Justice that will help you teach about Thanksgiving in a socially responsible way.

And be sure to check out our ClubX Blog posts for ideas to celebrate Native American Heritage Month!

Learn more about BGCA’s Native Services team and their incredible work at

Focus on gratitude.

We put together a list of activities to inspire gratitude last year, with some specifically Thanksgiving themed and others that are good all year long. Including TWO book lists!

Show Gratitude Tangibly By Engaging Youth in Community Service.

The holidays are a natural time to talk about giving back, so harness that energy to let youth plan and complete community service projects through the Club. At BGCA we have two specific leadership clubs within the Club that build leadership and good citizenship, Torch Clubs for youth ages 10-13, and Keystone Clubs for teens ages 13-18. Both involve community service projects as part of the chartering process, but you don’t have to restrict your projects to these two groups. In fact, getting youth started in community service early will help them build those leadership and empathy skills! The Torch Club National Project Guide gives staff the step-by-step process to leading youth through the process of building community with each other, identifying a project aligned with their passions, planning and completing the project, and even reflecting after its done. With some easy adaptations, you can use these same steps with younger youth to do smaller, yet just as meaningful, service projects.

Food + Math = Fun While Learning!

Scholastic has this great no-bake pumpkin cookie recipe, and best part is that if you don’t have access to a microwave, you can just combine the ingredients (minus the butter and cooking spray) as a dry harvest trail mix. They also give suggestions for making it a math activity- Be sure to enjoy some math with your snack! Have each group measure out their share of the ingredients. Ask students to estimate how many individual pieces of each ingredient they have. Invite them to write down their estimations. Then ask them to count and record the amount of each item they actually have. Were their estimates close to the real amount? Record each group’s findings on the board and compare the results. Discuss careful measuring and why it’s important when working with a recipe.

(Wonky Pinterest link but it goes to the printable recipe)

This activity could be a joint Art and Education room project, with painting the pies in one area then splitting them into fractions in the other.

I Did Say No Handprint Turkeys In the Title of This Blog But These Art Projects Look Cool!

I mean we can’t get through a holiday season without art projects, right? These are a little unexpected, and with adaptations could work for a few different age groups.

With these ideas on the calendar you’ll be ready to prepare for the most important part of Thanksgiving… the meal!

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How do you celebrate Thanksgiving at your Club? What are your favorite holiday season activities? We want to share them with everyone! Contact us by commenting below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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