By Katherine Hodge, Public Education Coordinator 

This year has brought many changes to everyday life. Unfortunately, upcoming holidays like Thanksgiving will also look very different for most Americas. 2020 has been difficult for many, and though Thanksgiving is often a holiday filled with warmth and food, it may be difficult to think of things to be thankful for this year.

Project Archaeology is thankful for lots of things! We have exciting projects that we’ve been able to work on this year, we were able to launch two brand new curricula, and we’ve worked toward improving our curricula for the future. We are thankful for the hardworking educators everywhere who are doing incredible jobs.

No matter the situation, there is something to learn about or learn from. For this Thanksgiving, in addition to educational resources at the bottom of this post, we have a new, free lesson for you!

There have been many significant questions raised this year, such as those concerning monuments in public spaces. Analyzing art and answering these questions is not easy, but it is important. Students will investigate monuments, consider their place in the public sphere, and learn the history of public art in this lesson. Through the lens of artistic analysis, students will work to gain an understanding of how visual media reflects cultural values. Working as a class, students will analyze a piece of artwork to uncover broader meanings and then independently analyze a monument of their choice.

Collaborating with Project Archaeology for this lesson is Mr. Nicholas Galanin, a Tlingit and Unangax. He has been educated around the world and apprenticed with several masters to become the artist he is today. His work “offers perspective rooted in connection to land and broad engagement with contemporary culture.” In this lesson, we feature Mr. Galanin’s Shadow on the Land for student and classroom analysis. Shadow on the Land isan excavation of the shadow cast by the Captain Cook statue in Sydney’s Hyde Park. Following tracing and transfer of the shadow to the site, careful excavation retains the shadow’s shape and reveals what the land holds beneath the surface.” If you are interested in seeing more artwork by Mr. Galanin, click here. We have also included a full biography and artistic statement within the new lesson.

Art may be everywhere, but the ability to understand its meaning and purpose is not. These skills are important and valuable, and something we have worked hard to foster in this lesson. We hope you enjoy it and learn from it.

Download the free lesson here.

In addition to the material we created, there are many other educational resources that are excellent tools for teachers everywhere.  The Thanksgiving story is taught in schools around America, and is frequently conveyed as a time of friendship, harmony, and sharing. Though aspects of this story may be true, the real story and its long-reaching impact are much more important for students to learn. In light of November being Native American Heritage month, please also check out these wonderful resources to use in your classroom:


NPR: What Educators Need To Know About Teaching Thanksgiving

Teaching Tolerance: Teaching Thanksgiving in a Socially Responsible Way

Teaching Thanksgiving from the Perspective of Native Americans

Washington Post: How Not to Teach Thanksgiving

Your Parenting Mojo: 4 Ways to Celebrate Thanksgiving with Children–Respectfully

NEA: Native Educators say Thanksgiving Lessons Can Be Accurate, Respectful, and Still Fun–Here’s How

Planbook: Lessons and Resources to Teach Thanksgiving with Truth and Integrity

OCPS: A Story of Survival: The Wampanoag and the English

EducationWorld: Are You Teaching the Real Story of the “First Thanksgiving”?

Medium: Decolonizing Thanksgiving: A Toolkit for Combatting Racism in Schools

IWJ: A Racial Justice Guide to Thanksgiving for Educators and Families

McGraw Hill: Four Tips for Teaching Thanksgiving in a Culturally Responsible Way 

PBSTeachers: An Authentic Look at Thanksgiving

Archaeology Education Clearinghouse: Thanksgiving Teach Resources