The Science of Gratitude

Science at Holidays

I often use major holidays as an excuse to veer from the “full speed ahead curriculum”. On top of being just plain festive and fun, doing this has a few purposes:

  • In my district, it is common for parents to pull their kids out of school a few days before breaks. (I’ve heard this helps them get better travel rates.) So, avoiding key content immediately before vacations cuts down on learning loss.
  • The days right before vacation always have a heightened energy. The kids are a little (or a lot) crazy and have a hard time paying attention. When I add a holiday theme to my science class, I retain their attention and they stay engaged.
  • It’s an easy opportunity to add real-world, super relevant connections to science.

Have We Lost the Meaning of Thanksgiving?

During one Thanksgiving season, I had been giving a lot of thought to “the meaning of Thanksgiving” and wanted to somehow sneak it into a science lesson. I’d been feeling that kids are just less grateful these days. Perhaps it’s social media, perhaps it’s our materialistic society, or maybe its just me getting older and thinking the cliché “kids used to be different”. Whatever its is, everyone can always use a little more gratitude in their life and I felt compelled to teach a lesson on being thankful. (But… I was also trying to avoid the prayer-type thankful discussions – I’m in public school.)

Teaching the Science of Gratitude

The season of Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to incorporate the sentiment of gratitude into a science classroom.  While this social-emotional concept and science class don’t seem to have a natural connection, the two are actually a perfect match. After all, the concept that being thankful and grateful makes people happier and healthier is scientifically proven!

Did you know that dozens of scientific studies have found that gratitude can improve well-being, helps people curb depression and anxiety, improves cholesterol, and leads to better sleep?  Grateful people also engage in more exercise, eat better, and are less likely to smoke and abuse alcohol.  Being grateful improves health – and science has proven it!

I created a lesson to teach students just that – that if they shift their thinking to being grateful, not only will they feel happier, their bodies will be healthier, as well.  In my 3-part Thanksgiving SEL Activity, students:

  • READ the “Science of Gratitude” article that describes the science behind the benefits of having a positive attitude. Students learn specific, science-backed ways that having a grateful attitude improves health.
  • COMPLETE a graphic organizer to summarize the information they’ve learned in the text.
  • ANSWER Social Emotional Learning (SEL) self-analysis questions related to gratitude. I have had so many truly beautiful class discussions based on these prompts.
Science of Gratitude Article
Science of Gratitude Worksheet

Year after year, I do this activity the quick week of Thanksgiving.  Not only do the kids enjoy it, I leave for break with a warm feeling that I taught the kids something truly important. The icing on the cake (or should I say the whipped cream on the pumpkin pie?) is the feedback that I’ve gotten from other teachers about this lesson. I am so thankful for their kind words!

I loved, loved, LOVED this! It fit right in with our Well-Being curriculum and did a great job of connecting behavioral health with physical health. Even better, was seeing the students put the lesson in practice. This is one of my favorite TpT purchases so far! – Nicole C.

Great and fun activity for those days when kids and teachers are ready for a long break! The kids enjoyed them and they learned a little science too! – Sheryl B.

This is one of my favorite activities ever to do with my kids! – Katie B.

I used this for as part of a larger Thanksgiving project to thank the staff members at our school. Loved it! – Christina E.

This was an awesome activity! – Kaitlyn B.

My students were engaged and quiet while reading and answering questions! They really put thought into their answers! – Carolyn D.

Great resource to complete before break that helps students make personal connections. – Miss Huff

Students loved this activity! Great for before holiday enrichment! – Meredith H.

I think this was a great activity to do right before Thanksgiving. I modified it slightly due to time constraints, but overall it led to good discussion. It was also a time for me to tell my students that I was grateful for them as well! – Stephanie H.

Happy Thanksgiving, readers!

Click to View This Lesson on TPT

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