9-12 Activities

9-12 Activities

These activities for Life at Sea were updated in late 2008 and early 2009, along with the Learning Results.

Ideas to try....

Careers and Education
Write a letter applying for a job on board a ship—in the Age of Sail and today.  State your qualifications, skills, how you learned your job, what salary you expect, what benefits, etc.

English Language Arts
Read some contemporary fiction or nonfiction works from other cultures—Chinese, Indian, South American. How is their culture reflected in their work? How has their culture changed from what you have learned about those ports in the days of sail

Some primary source materials—letters, diaries, logbooks—are available at Penobscot Marine Museum and elsewhere. Analyze one of these works, seeing what you can deduce and interpret from it.  Write pieces in the style and voice of a 19th century character of your choice.

Read fiction or nonfiction works about life at sea. Do the authors think life at sea is good, bad, or indifferent? What ways is life at sea different from life ashore in these works, and how do the authors express the differences?

What kinds of health problems were common aboard ship? How did captains and owners try to avoid or treat them?  Some cargoes were influenced by the health beliefs and practices of other cultures; for example, ginseng.  Research this topic in more depth.  The subject of medical care and developments in health concepts and attitudes may make an interesting research project, as we are undergoing many changes today.

Measurement is critical to merchant vessels carrying large cargoes. How were different cargoes packaged, measured, and stowed?  Given the capacity of a ship’s hold, calculate what could be stored. Create diagrams and schematics to demonstrate. 

Science and Technology
Study the forces involved in making a sailing vessel move. What are the wind and water forces? What are different ways that wind helps propel a sailing vessel? What are advantages of square-rigged vs. fore-and-aft rigged vessels, with respect to effective conversion of wind energy into vessel propulsion?

Social Studies
Study the governments in foreign ports in the 19th century. How did they influence the foreign policy of the United States? Is there a relationship to today’s foreign policy?
What influences did Americans have on the places they visited?  What influences did Americans take back with them?

Visual and Performing Arts
Learn more about the arts of the sailor, including music.  Compose a sea shanty or a modern version of a work song. Compare the visual arts of 19th century American maritime culture with those of other cultures of the same period.  Analyze a group of maritime paintings, comparing and contrasting artists.