William Penn, along with the early Quakers, holds a very important place in Pennsylvania history. Quakerism emerged in the 1650s during the English Civil War. William Penn was an early member of the Society of Friends as well as the founder of Pennsylvania after being granted a large piece of land from King Charles II. Penn hoped that Quakers would move and settle in Pennsylvania to practice their religion freely. His hope was this new land offered freedom of religion where people could live safely and practice their beliefs.
Quakers believe in the “inner light,” meaning that there is God in everyone. Early Quakers are known for their practice of silent worship, pacifism and plain dress. Quakers believe that all people are equal in life. People often disagreed with this belief during the early years of Quakerism. Early Quakers did not believe in war and would not pay any taxes that could potentially fund a war. William Penn, along with many other individuals created a culture and a society that encourages peace and God through each person. This set will explore early Quaker culture, the Society of Friends, and their beliefs as well as William Penn and his actions throughout his life.
This set explores the establishment of Quaker life in Pennsylvania, including religious traditions routines, culture, and clothing. This set will also dive deeper into William Penn and the impact he had on Pennsylvania. Elementary students will learn about the Quaker community while using their own life experiences to compare and contrast life then from life now. This unit will allow students to use primary sources to learn new information and continue to transfer that information into different activities. Activities will encourage students to use real-world connections as well as time, continuity and change.
This set can be tailored to fit grades 2-4.
- Standard – 5.1.1.C: Define equality and the need to treat everyone equally.
- Standard – 5.2.4.A: Identify individual rights and needs and the rights and needs of others in the classroom, school, and community.
- Standard – 5.2.4.D: Describe how citizens participate in school and community activities.
- Standard – 5.3.3.G: Identify individual interests and explain ways to influence others.
- Standard – 5.4.2.A: Explain examples of conflict in the community, state, and nation.
Additional Resources for Research
Central Inquiry Question: How have Quaker beliefs and customs shifted from the founding of Pennsylvania to more recent times?
Monday – William Penn
- What religion is William Penn?
- What did he believe?
- Where was he born?
- What was the “Holy Experiment”?
Tuesday – School
- How does the Quaker school look different from our school?
- What challenges do you think they faced in this time with school?
- What do you think they learned about?
Wednesday – Clothing
- How do Quakers dress?
- What are some important aspects of the Quaker culture?
- How is your own culture different from the Quaker culture?
- Do you think Quakers still dress like this?
Thursday – Church/Meeting House
- What does the Society of Friends do?
- How do Quakers worship?
- Why do Quakers not have ministers?
- What have you learned about the lifestyle and beliefs of Quakers this week?
- What are some lasting impacts of Quaker history on Pennsylvania?
Monday: Who is William Penn?
Today’s instruction will focus on educating students about William Penn with the sources listed below. Using a KWL chart, have students fill out the first two columns with the information they know about William Penn and what they would like to know. This pre-instruction activity will allow you as a teacher to gauge your students prior knowledge of William Penn and what they would like to learn throughout this lesson. This information will shape your discussion about William Penn as you move through your lesson while using the three primary sources listed below. At the end of the lesson, have students complete the KWL chart by filling in the last column as to what they have learned about William Penn. This KWL chart will serve as a reference for later use in this week’s unit on Quakers.
- William Penn.
- William Penn Treaty.
- William Penn’s Treaty With the Native Americans.
- William Penn statue on City Hall tower.
Tuesday: Quaker School
Today’s focus will be set around the Quaker school. This activity will include a venn diagram for a then versus now lesson format. Use the primary sources listed below for today’s lesson. Children will learn about the Quaker school and what life was like for children during that time. Use the discussion questions as a basis for classroom discussion and student learning. Students will have the opportunity to write about the Quaker school while comparing and contrasting it from the school they are attending. This is a great opportunity for students to make real world connections and compare their lives to the lives of Quaker children.
5. Friends Select School, Gayley and Baker.
6. Boy’s gallery, Westtown.
7. Collection Room, Westtown. Old building.
Wednesday: Quaker Clothing
Today’s lesson will be focused on Quaker clothing and culture. Students will complete a Venn diagram to compare and contrast historical Quaker clothing to their own clothing. Use the following primary sources to show students what historical Quaker clothing was like. Allow students to ask questions that they may have about the Quaker community. Students will be able to use the primary sources to complete the Venn diagram. This activity will engage students’ knowledge on the historical Quakers as well as their knowledge of today’s society and culture surrounding each and everyone of them.
8. Fashion print showing a couple attired in Quaker costume.
9. Friend’s Meeting House. Race Street, Philadelphia.
10. Elsie Todd.
11. Elizabeth Underhill & Benjamin Mott Underhill.
12. On beach.
13. Costume des Quakers.
Thursday: Quaker Church
Today’s focus will be around the Quaker church and the community surrounding it. Provide your students with primary sources listed below to help students visualize what a Quaker church may have looked like. As a class discuss how Quakers worship and why they do not have ministers. Use this time to explain who the Society of Friends are and what meeting houses are used for. Explain what happens in these buildings and why they are so important to the Quaker community. Students will complete a 5W chart answering questions of who they were, what they did, why they did it, when and where. Allow students to view the primary sources and any classroom notes taken throughout the lesson. This serves as an activity for today’s lesson as well as a unit wrap up activity. The activity will assess students’ overall understanding of the information taught throughout the week.
14. Quakers Meeting House.
15. A fourth day morning view of Friends Meeting House on Cherry Street, Philadelphia.
16. Interior of renovated Friends Meeting House.
17. Annual meeting room at renovated Friends meeting house
This set was created by Elayna Curtin of the Temple University College of Education.
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