5-8 Activities

5-8 Activities

These activities for Ships and Shipbuilding were updated along with the Learning Results sections in late 2008 and early 2009.

Note the differences in grade groupings: in 1997 the Learning Results were divided into grades 3-4 and 5-8; in 2007 they were divided into grades 3-5 and 6-8.

Ideas to try....


Research the requirements for different occupations related to shipbuilding, and engage in group discussion comparing them. What does a naval architect do?

English Language Arts
Select one type of sailing vessel built in Maine to research. Write an essay synthesizing the data collected.

Many descriptive passages have been composed describing clipper ships, whose speed and style captured people’s imaginations in the nineteenth century.  (See Forbes, Yankee Ship Sailing Cards on Resources page and web references.)  Compose an advertisement for a clipper ship. Clippers tended to have romantic names, compared to Down Easters and other vessels.  Give your ship an appropriate name.  Carry over to art projects. 

Research a modern shipbuilding company—large or small. Try to visit it. Use what you learn to write or present a report, paying attention to sequencing.

Write the sequential story of the “life” of a Down Easter—from construction to demise.


Health and Physical Education
Discuss the physical attributes necessary for success in the shipbuilding industry.  Identify and discuss the hazards to people who engaged in shipbuilding and to men and families who sailed on merchant vessels.

Construct graphs or charts to demonstrate the relative efficiency of various types of vessels: by carrying capacity (tonnage), speed, number of sails or masts, number of crew required, cost to build, or longevity of the vessel.

Create pictographs to illustrate the quantities of various products shipped to Maine or a Maine port in a year during the age of sail. What cargoes are measured in tons? How can a vessel’s tonnage be measured?

Discuss the geometric shapes involved in vessel construction—look at plans for hulls and sails.

Science and Technology
Experiment with floating and sinking, using different shapes, materials, and weights.

Create simple model ships and design experiments to test their relative speeds.  Document the results with graphs.

Debate in small groups the efficiency of several types of energy required in shipbuilding and in operating vessels.

Debate in small groups the efficiency of several types of energy required in shipbuilding and in operating vessels.

Social Studies
Using a world map, draw trade routes from Maine, Boston, or New York to trading partners around the world. Calculate distances. Did vessels always take the shortest route? Why?

Create a time line leading up to, through, and beyond the age of sailing vessels


Explore the role of the artisan and his art as it relates to ship design and construction.  Donald McKay was a famous designer of clippers in Boston—learn why he was considered such an artist.

Grades 5-8