Pilgrims Pride

By George Latos, November 27, 2006

Grade Level

  • Elementary School


  • Other

Subject Area

  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Two fifty-minute class periods, plus one homework assignment


We often only think of pilgrims as the newcomers to Plymouth in 1620. However, modern pilgrims arrive to the United States daily. The book Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen illustrates that a pilgrim is also a modern-day immigrant. When Molly is asked to make a pilgrim clothespin doll for homework, her mother makes one that looks similar to Molly. This is met by laughter in Molly's classroom until they realize that as Polish Jews, Molly's family moved to NYC for freedom from persecution. This is an important idea to share with the students in order to make them aware of struggles that exist in other countries and why the promise of America is still strong.

National Standards


Students will be able to:
  • learn about immigrants and immigration to the United States
  • change or expand their definition of the word “Pilgrim”
  • assess the goals of their ancestors who first arrived on our shores
  • research and design a doll representative of their heritages


Molly's Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen


  • clothes pins-the old wooden style with no spring
  • assorted scrap cloth
  • paper
  • plastic
  • toothpicks
  • markers
  • cotton
  • felt
  • glue


Pilgrim immigration immigrant freedom oppression religion assimilation Tenement house Synagogue Yiddish Cossacks


  • Write the word pilgrim on the board and begin a discussion about the meaning of the word and what the students think about when they hear the word. List key words on the board and use the board as a tool to brainstorm. Question the students to find out what is already known about pilgrims and fish for possible definitions of the word pilgrim and immigrant.
  • Ask the children to try to imagine a modern pilgrim. What would make a person a modern pilgrim?
  • Introduce the book Molly’s Pilgrim and read it aloud to the class.
  • Following the book, hold a discussion with the students. Ask them to relate the experiences of Molly and her family with those of the pilgrims from 1620. Have them relate the experiences of Molly and her family to those of their own ancestors who immigrated to America. Take time to include all possible motivating factors of immigration, focusing on the themes of freedom of thought or religion as a possible motivation, along with unstable situations in their home country, violence, persecution, etc. Discuss how the clothing, lifestyle, and means of transportation of modern pilgrims are different than those of the pilgrims of Plymouth.
  • For homework, have the students investigate their family heritage. Tell them that they will be making a clothespin doll like Molly, but their clothespin pilgrim will be representative of their family heritage. Encourage them to interview family members in order to find out when their first ancestors came to the USA, where they came from, why they came, etc. They should write a journal entry containing all of this information to bring to class.
  • In class, provide the students with the materials to make their pilgrim clothespin doll. They should also write up a paragraph explaining where their doll is from, when they came to the United States, why they came, etc. Have them proofread each others paragraphs for spelling and grammatical mistakes. In addition, they can include a setting to display the dolls that may depict their town.


Each student’s clothespin doll will be evaluated visually. Did they follow the directions? Also, their writing sample will be evaluated to make sure they include the necessary answers.

Enrichment Extension Activities

Allow the students to work on the clothespin dolls with a parent or family member (like Molly) as homework. Students could exchange dolls, or identities to make a doll representing another culture. As a research project, students could study another culture to create a clothespin doll.

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