Get ideas and inspiration for how you can create global connections to Guy Fawkes Day in your own classroom!
400 Years of History
For more than 400 years, people across the United Kingdom have celebrated Guy Fawkes Day, or Bonfire Night, on November 5. It commemorates a failed plan, known as the Gunpowder Plot, to blow up the British Parliament and kill King James I in 1605.
Guy Fawkes was one of the conspirators who hid barrels of gunpowder under the building, planning to explode it when members of Parliament and the king were inside.
At the time Britain was ruled by a Protestant royal family, and the conspirators believed Catholics should be granted greater religious tolerance in England. They hoped their plan would help to establish Catholic rule.
But before the explosion, the plot was revealed, and the building was searched. This led to Fawkes and his co-conspirators being captured and executed. Parliament established November 5 as a day of thanksgiving and celebration that the bombing attempt was thwarted.
Today, people celebrate with fireworks and bonfires across the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa, and other countries. Effigies depicting Fawkes, or “Guys,” are often made out of straw or cloth, and then burned on the bonfires. Guards perform an annual search of the Houses of Parliament for any arsonists—now more a ritual than a serious hunt.
Children celebrate leading up to the holiday by carrying homemade “Guys” through the streets, asking for “a penny for the Guy” to raise money for fireworks displays.
These free classroom resources from Parliament’s website can help you get started with your students. Use the ideas below for further activities.
- Ask students to research how fireworks are made, what materials they are composed of, and how they are set off.
- For older students, this could be a great chemistry and/or physics lesson.
- Do a simple experiment with oil, water, and food coloring to make fireworks in a glass jar.
- Ask students to compare and contrast parliamentary government with the U.S. system of government. This animated overview of Parliament can help students get started!
- Ask students to research the history of Catholicism and Protestantism in England and what led to the tensions and religious intolerance during that time.
- Have students do a sequencing activity to help them understand the events leading up to, during, and after November 5, 1605.
- Ask students to examine primary sources to better understand the Gunpowder Plot and the motives behind it. This could include discussions about what would have happened if the plot had succeeded and implications for the British monarchy.
- Have students create their own fireworks depictions using black paper and chalk or pastels.
- Have students make rockets or sparklers using craft supplies like paper towel tubes, tissue paper, or streamers.
If you celebrate Guy Fawkes Day in your classroom, be sure to tell us on social media using #unitingourworld. We’d love to see your creative ideas!