Thanksgiving Day Parade

Felix the Cat was one of the parade's first balloons in 1927 (Forbes)
 One of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions is watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  This annual festivity makes an excellent theme for learning as Thanksgiving (and Thanksgiving break) draw near.

For starters, there are several great books about the parade that are fun to share with students.
Milly and the Macy's Parade is a picture book by Shana Corey and Brett Helquist about the origins of Macy's annual parade.  The story isn't exactly true to history, but the book conveys that Macy's began the parade to cheer up the New York department store's many immigrant employees and shoppers who often felt homesick for Old World traditions (like parades and caroling) during the holiday season.  This heartwarming book makes a great introduction to conversations about immigration and cultural diffusion.

Students can visit the official Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade website to view real photos and facts from the parade's past, which they can use to create a timeline.

Balloons over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy's Parade, by Melissa Sweet, is another story about the parade's history.  This book focuses on puppeteer Tony Sarg without whom the parade would not be the fantastical tradition it has become.  This Caldecott honor recipient was just named as one of the titles on the 2013-14 Texas Bluebonnet Reading List.

Macy's on Parade is a non-fiction book in pop-up format that includes interactive features like a pull-out parade map and confetti for the reader to throw.  This book is a fun way to bring a little of the parade experience to far-flung revelers.

After reading these stories, students can dream up balloons and floats for their favorite book characters.  Miniature 3D parade floats can be made using shoe boxes.  Another idea is to create Christmas ornaments inspired by parade floats.  Author Melissa Sweet demonstrated how to make parade ornaments using Styrofoam balls.
 Visit Martha Stewart's site to see the tutorial video.  Meanwhile, teachers can use the theme to create a book display like this one from Andrea Elson.

For a little math practice, students can analyze this parade graphic from Nielsen, which shows viewership trends over the past couple of decades.

Students will also enjoy watching the History Channel's behind-the-scenes look at how the floats are made, which could springboard a science discussion about why helium makes balloons float.

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