These activities for Life at Sea were updated in late 2008 and early 2009, along with the Learning Results.
Ideas to try....
Opportunities for comparisons: how did people communicate on board ship in the 19th century compared to how people communicate today? Signal flag activities emphasize speed and efficiency of communication methods today. Flags relate to letters; they may help children understand the arbitrariness of letter-sound relationships and provide an entertaining way to practice sequencing. Spell names using cut-outs of signal flags.
We know that the merchant sailing ships carried goods to and from countries. How did the people living on board acquire their own goods and services? How did they provide for food? What roles did maritime towns play in getting ships ready to sail?
Writing activities: write (or dictate) simple journal entries based on an imaginary day at sea, choosing a role and a location. Write a letter home, to a friend or neighbor, describing an imaginary event , or write a list of what you would pack to go to sea. Describe your “ship,” creating a name, home port, destination, cargo, and crew; and draw a picture.
Learn about the diets of the crew and the captain and his family at sea. Prepare a meal in class using only things that sailors would have eaten. Write recipes or give directions orally. Where do some shipboard foods come from? (e.g., ingredients in hardtack, etc.) How did food on board ship differ from food eaten ashore?
How were the lives of boys different from the lives of girls in the 19th century? Were their roles the same at sea as on shore? Compare education and play. As adults, how did the roles of men and women differ? What was expected of wives and mothers who went to sea?
Learn more about countries and cities that were visited by Maine families at sea. Pretend you arrive in Hong Kong or another port. What would you find there? How would you communicate?
Compare your own family’s day to a day on board a Down-Easter. Many things are different—what things are the same? Look at old photographs—What can you learn just by observing a picture?
Health and Physical Education
What would it be like to walk on the deck of a ship, compared to walking on the ground? Try to play a game while pretending to be on a slanting deck or rolling ship. Simulate the deck with a board propped up on one side to create a slant, or by using a balance board while playing ball. Why did children sometimes have to learn to walk all over again after living on a ship for a long time? Discuss balance and the inner ear.
What diseases were a threat aboard ship and why? What was medical care like?
Do math problems using cargo—loading and unloading items. Use positional words to describe the layout of the ship, both the areas occupied by people and the cargo area. Patterns were apparent in designs in some sailors’ art work—knot work, shell art. Design projects on paper using patterns that can be executed in shells or other media. Find patterns in signal flag sequences—same flag means same letter. Create flag patterns.
Science and Technology
How do sailing ships move? Describe their motion in relation to the wind and waves. What is different about steamships? Talk about different kinds of storms. What other dangers did weather pose for sailing ships?
Think of an activity that took place aboard ship, such as coiling up a rope, tying a knot, and steering the ship. Give directions, oral or written, for a partner to follow.
Look at the map—place pictures of products on the map according to their place of origin or their destination in the world of trade. Why do countries import various items?
Compare temperatures in different seasons in Maine and China, South America, England, Australia, etc. What would you pack for a trip, if you had only one small trunk?
Visual and Performing Arts
Learn a sea shanty. Write an original work song to accompany a task children do now (walking the dog, making a bed, setting the table, etc.).
Try some shell art or needlework.