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Grade Two Sets Sail on the Mayflower!
Jen Minkus

Experiential and integrated learning at CJDS is beautifully illustrated in the Grade 2 Mayflower Unit. This study of the history of the Pilgrims and Strangers on their journey to the New World delves into these essential questions:

  • How does religious freedom (or lack of it) impact the way people live?
  • Why do people move? How does belief influence action?

Students began their experience with the study of historical events leading up to the voyage. They then prepared for their voyage by transforming their classroom into the Mayflower and taking on the roles of an actual passenger who sailed aboard the ship. Daily events aboard the ship included experiences such as storms, seasickness, a baby being born, and water contamination. They also spent a lot of time role-playing daily life in the cramped quarters of a ship (cleaning, seeing a doctor, cooking, reading, quiet games, etc.). Before leaving the ship, they studied about the Mayflower Compact, including its purpose and the role it played in guiding their governance once on land. They then wrote their own Mayflower Compact.

Students simulated these theoretical experiences and journaled their reflections and feelings at the end of each day. They also explored deeper topics that provoked meaningful group discussion, such as:

  • What might it have felt like to live in a place with little religious freedom, and how would this feel for us if we were unable to practice our Judaism?
  • Would we feel brave enough to leave everything behind and risk our lives in hopes of a better life?
  • What kind of daily struggles would we face on such a difficult journey?

The damaging impact of restricted religious freedom really resonated with students. They demonstrated an impressive level of empathy for how terrified the Pilgrims must have felt knowing that their religious beliefs put them at risk. They made deep connections to how they would feel if they were unable to practice Judaism.