by Rena Klingenberg.
This Thanksgiving jewelry craft is a perfect activity for elementary school students or homeschool students.
(Or for anybody who enjoys history and beading!)
How This Idea Got Started:
I led this Thanksgiving craft project at my son’s elementary school for several years, and it was a big hit with students and teachers.
The school held a Thanksgiving Festival every November, out in the school yard.
Each class came into the festival by “landing at Plymouth” (after being pulled slowly around the school parking lot on a “Mayflower” trailer with a mast, hooked up to a volunteer dad’s pickup truck).
Then each class toured through a series of games and activities reflecting both Native American and Pilgrim culture in the 1600’s.
My Thanksgiving necklace craft was one of the activities in the festival.
How I Did This
Thanksgiving Necklace Activity:
At home I put together kits with an assortment of natural beads (made from wood, shell, bone, horn, etc.) plus a leather cord for stringing the beads into a necklace.
I packaged the kits into individual mini jewelry ziplock bags.
I made a necklace kit for each student, plus one for each teacher, and a few extras for other folks who might want to participate.
For each class I also printed out a one-page sheet I wrote on How Beads Were Used in Early America for the class to read before the festival, so the necklace project would be more relevant and meaningful to the students.
- An assortment of natural beads with holes large enough to string on a leather cord.
Look for wood, shell, bone, horn, and other natural materials.
For small quantities, you can probably find these kinds of beads in a local craft or bead store.
But I needed a lot of them, so I ordered big assortment packs of these kinds of beads from Fire Mountain.
Alternative: Have the students make their own beads out of paper, cork, clay, or other natural materials.
- Leather cord that will fit through the beads – a 30″ (76cm) length for each necklace (so the finished necklace can be put on over the wearer’s head, with no clasp needed).
(Available at most craft or bead stores, or through most online jewelry suppliers.)
- Small ziplock bags for packaging the kits.
My How Beads Were Used in Early America free PDF page (you can download it and print it).
Depending on the students’ ages, the teacher can read this sheet to them, or each student can have a copy and read it to themselves.
It’s actually an interesting read! 🙂
How I Taught the
Thanksgiving Necklace Craft:
At the school’s Thanksgiving Festival, I had a big blanket spread on the ground for the students to sit on, with a tarp underneath it to ward off the damp grass.
While the students got settled on the blanket, I asked them a few questions from what they’d read on my “How Beads Were Used in Early America” sheet, to refresh the information in their minds.
Then I showed them a couple of example necklaces (plus I was wearing one myself), so they could get an idea of what we were making.
I handed each student a necklace kit, and asked if they could show me a bead made from seashell, one from wood, one from a horn, and one from bone.
With the horn and bone beads, I explained that our ancestors didn’t waste any part of an animal they killed for food.
I also asked the students what they thought the leather cord came from.
After the students identified what their beads and leather cord were made from, they started stringing their necklaces.
Most of the beads in my kits were fairly large and easy to handle – and easy to find if dropped.
When the students finished stringing their beads, I had them tie the ends of their leather cords into a simple knot – and then put on their necklaces to wear.
Most of the students – both girls and boys – loved these necklaces, and often when I was volunteering at school later for other things, students would come up to me and say,
“Look, Ms. Klingenberg, I’m wearing my Thanksgiving necklace today!” 🙂