These activities were updated in late 2008 and early 2009, along with the Learning Results.
Ideas to try....
Careers and Education
Look into possible maritime careers today. What education do you need? What did seamen need to learn in the nineteenth century, and how did they learn it? How did captains attain their positions? Many were from families in which several generations went to sea. Look at the Searsport Sea Captains book—can you find a local family that produced sea captains?
Select an occupation involved with the past or present merchant shipping trade. Research that occupation, and prepare an oral presentation, describing clearly what a day in your life might be like. Include details of your education, your work environment, how you came to hold the position and how it affects you and your family. Prepare an outline to speak from and share your sources.
English Language Arts
Read some original source material, such as excerpts from Letters from Sea or other letters or diaries available at the museum or on-line. Look for evidence of a personal slant on information. Write your own letter and diary entry, trying to demonstrate different styles in public vs. personal writings. Include description of an imaginary event, such as a storm, a meeting of ships at sea, a rescue, etc. What kind of descriptive language can you use? Write letters from the other perspective as well—family members staying behind on shore.
Assume the role of a crew member or family member on board ship and write an article for the newspaper back home, describing in detail your experiences in visiting a foreign culture. Describe how that culture contrasts with your home town.
Most of the accounts we read of life at sea were written by captains and their families. Write a similar account from the perspective of a common sailor, cabin boy, cook, or from the perspective of a merchant from another country.
If you were a young woman in 1875, would you accompany your husband on board ship? Why or why not? Would you want to be a mother at sea? If you were a sea captain, would you take your family along?
Health and Physical Education
Health and disease were viewed differently in the 19th century. What were causes and treatments available then? What risks were involved in working on a ship? What role did diet play in health? Construct a visual aid to demonstrate the similarities and differences between today’s occupational hazards and those of the age of sail. What did doctors learn in that time and how were they trained, in comparison to the present day?
How was speed measured at sea? Distance? Course? Measurement was important in managing cargo—size of hold, shape, types of cargo, determining capacity. Work with maps or grids to locate ships and plot their progress across the ocean from logbooks at the museum. Create some problems that might have been faced by those who lived aboard ship. Demonstrate the solution using mathematical principles and formulas appropriate to the task. For example, time and distance, and conservation of food stores over a long voyage.
Create a pictorial map of the world to display ports that families might visit, what they might purchase there, and how they might spend their time in port. Many Maine captains’ homes featured items from around the world.
Look at the U.S. vs. a trading partner country in the days of the Down-Easters. Learn more about what life was like in that country—China, South America, India, etc. Compare domestic life there to domestic life in a Maine town.
Science and Technology
Compare motion and energy of sailing vessels and steam-powered vessels. What consequences did these differences produce? What were the impacts on people, use of resources, and trade? How did economic development change from the 19th to 20th century? In an essay, analyze the effects of the changes in life at sea that occurred as steam took over.
Visual and Performing Arts
Compare and contrast sea shanties with music of other cultures or other times. Write your own work song.
Try some crafts done by sailors: knots, other ropework, carving, needlework, shell work, and ship models