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14 Thanksgiving Activities for High School Students (Get Engagement)

Find silly and educational ways to keep your teens engaged with these Thanksgiving activities for high school students.

Looking for Thanksgiving activities for high school students?

two high school girls giggling while working on white board, text overlay

Let me help you bring this Thanksgiving season into your classroom with some fun and educational ideas.

Thanksgiving Activities for High School Students

Pick one of these Thanksgiving activities for high school students to weave into your day for some fun, increased engagement, and learning.

1. Create a Teen Pilgrim Magazine

Make any unit of study on Pilgrims so much more relatable by taking it down to the teen level.

Have students write an essay or do some sort of project (like create a Pilgrim teen magazine with a group) where they’re talking about the issues facing teen Pilgrims.  

What does a day in the life of a Pilgrim Teen look like?

Some questions to help guide their project:  

  • What do pilgrim teens face each day that would frustrate them (build out a pretend schedule to help)?
  • What chores and household responsibilities would teens have?
  • How much free time would a Pilgrim teen have?
  • What did they have to eat?
  • Was there school, or did they age out of it?
  • What did their clothes look like?
  • What were their personal freedoms, and what were they not allowed to do? Compare this to teens today. How have things changed?
  • What did they play with or do to entertain themselves?

Lots of freedom here for your teens to pair some research with some hunches and create an interesting essay or Pilgrim Teen Magazine.

2. Complete an In-Class Volunteer Project

male teacher slapping high fives to students working on volunteer projects

There are lots of volunteer opportunities students can do from the classroom.

I’ve written a whole article on 27 different volunteer-from-home activities, many of which can be adapted for the classroom.

Hint: here are 12 activities to teach giving to students.

3. Set Up Thanksgiving Minute-to-Win-it Game Stations

There are a gazillion ideas out there for Thanksgiving minute-to-win-it games, and I’ll highlight a few below that could work for your classroom:

  • Chopsticks Turkey Pecking Game: Set up a plate with things like popcorn, candy corn, and other small objects. Have students “peck” each piece (like a turkey would) with chopsticks, and transfer it to another plate. This can be timed, or you can tag-team this one for large groups competing against one another.
  • Sticky Cranberry Situation: This involves bouncing cranberries onto a bread with cranberry sauce until you get one to stick.

Hint: this would make a great classroom reward – here are several more examples of classroom reward systems from real teachers.

4. Play The Giving Game with Another Classroom

Pair up with another classroom. Work with students in a brainstorming session to come up with ideas for how to “give” this classroom something.

It doesn’t have to cost anything – it could be creating a mural outside of their classroom with compliments and kind thoughts.

It could be setting up a classroom or school-wide Thanksgiving scavenger hunt.

Give each other the deadline of the last day before Thanksgiving break to get the act done.

5. Play Thanksgiving Price is Right

teen hand writing on paper playing price is right game

Write down “typical” Thanksgiving ingredients, and price them either online or in person.

Ingredients could be things like:

  • Turkey (price per pound)
  • Can of cranberry sauce
  • Frozen or canned corn
  • Box of stuffing
  • Can of pumpkin
  • Etc.

Divide your class into teams (as many as you’d like), and let them take 2-3 minutes for each item of food to come up with their group guess on what it costs.

Reveal what the food actually costs, and give a point to the team who got closest to that cost without going over.

6. Do a Gratefulness Mural to Display in the Hall

high school boy student painting mural on wall with other students

Let your students come together to plan how to do a gratefulness mural with some mural paper.

Each student can contribute something to it. Whether it’s something that makes each student grateful and the mural becomes one big collage of art, or it’s the class coming together and painting something huge that depicts being grateful.

Then, display it in the hallway leading up to your classroom (or wherever you’ve got permission).

7. Set up Pilgrim Taste-Testing Stations

Here’s a list of actual Pilgrim recipes, plus (mostly) how to recreate them.

Create these dishes, and then set the food out at various taste-testing stations. Rotate students through the stations, and have them taste various foods.

Things like:

  • Nasaump
  • Boiled Bread
  • Curd Fritters
  • Turkey Sobaheg
  • Stewed Pompion

You can also create a taste test judge sheet, where students vote for their favorites.

Psst: you can add in a Pilgrim’s game of Nine Men’s Morris and party like it was 1621!

8. Write an Essay on Feelings about Black Friday

teen high school student girl working on Black Friday essay

Black Friday has, arguably, taken over Thanksgiving Day in ways that some people don’t like (and some people – namely, the ones standing in line after Thanksgiving dinner to score those great “deals” – don’t mind).

Do a mini-project where students research the two sides to the argument on whether or not Black Friday should stay as it is.

They can think about and answer questions (in an essay, or other way) such as:

  • How did Black Friday used to look (decades ago), and how has it changed? What’s the history of Black Friday?
  • What do they think about people who have to work on Thanksgiving Day due to stores rolling out their deals earlier and earlier each year?
  • Does your opinion change when you learn that these workers can earn more money in holiday pay to work on Thanksgiving Day? Why or why not?
  • And what about workers who have to work on Thanksgiving Day no matter if Black Friday is the next day or not (police officers, nurses, the President of the United States, etc.)?

9. Do a Lesson Plan on Sourcing Thanksgiving Food from Farm to Table

Here’s a really neat agricultural-literacy lesson plan for grades 9-12 that will make your students think differently about their meal.

As a class, you guys will brainstorm both the meals typically served at Thanksgiving, and the ingredients that go into the meals.

Then, students will work on a series of questions and tasks, such as crossing off all ingredients on the list not sourced within 100 miles of their school.

They’ll fill out “The Geography of My Thanksgiving Dinner” worksheet (and there are lots of other activities, too).

10. Learn about Cranberries, Sweet Potatoes, and Turkey Production

Here’s a free worksheet and lesson plan on where in the U.S. sweet potatoes and cranberries are grown, and which states produce the most turkeys.

Psst: snag a few more ideas with these Thanksgiving activities for teens.

11. Look at the Economics Behind Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day is a great foundation for an economics lesson plan.

You can use this information to come up with discussion points, and to show students where to research how much this holiday stimulates the economy (plus in what ways).

They’ll learn things like:

  • Average dinner cost
  • All the different effects of Thanksgiving on the economy (like air travel, gas, and increased food shopping)
  • Why turkey prices drop around Thanksgiving, not increase
  • Etc.

12. Do a 14-Day Gratitude Journal Practice

Use the two weeks leading up to Thanksgiving break to start a gratitude journal practice with your students.

You could give each student a fresh notebook to use for this so that they might continue the practice on their own after the two weeks are up.

On the first day, explain what gratitude is. Also explain some of the benefits we gain from being grateful and doing a gratitude practice.

There are gratitude journals for teens, and then there are lots of free gratitude journal prompts you could use with your class.

Here are a few:

13. Do Thanksgiving Mad Libs

group of high school students having fun playing free Thanksgiving Mad Libs

Let your students have fun in groups, with a partner, or as a whole class doing the classic game of Mad Libs.

Here are free, Thanksgiving-themed ones:

14. Pair Up with an Elementary Class for Thanksgiving Reading Buddies

You could work together with an elementary class and have each of your students pick out a Thanksgiving book to read to a student.

Great reinforcement for helping others out – plus I think each person (the child AND the teen) will get something out of this.

Well, those are the Thanksgiving activities for high school students I’ve got for you. I’d love to hear in the comments below what you tried and what worked best for your classes. Also, share any ideas you’ve got to help other teachers out!

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Amanda L. Grossman is a writer and Certified Financial Education Instructor, a 2017 Plutus Foundation Grant Recipient, and founder of Money Prodigy. Her money work has been featured on Experian, GoBankingRates, PT Money,, Rockstar Finance, the Houston Chronicle, and Colonial Life. Amanda is the founder and CEO of Frugal Confessions, LLC. Read more here.