To immerse their students in an important aspect of early American History, on Friday the 5th Grade teachers transformed one of their classrooms into an emigrant ship for a day. This unique learning experience was designed to help students appreciate the hardships that our forefathers experienced as they set sail for the “new world.”

The morning began with students arriving for school in period clothes and hauling all the supplies they would need for their adventure. This included food, water, blankets, pillows, and period-appropriate entertainment. Since all items brought to the “ship” had to coincide with items available in the early 1600s through late 1800s, students, like emigrants before them, were forced to wait in a long line while bag checkers went through their belongings and cleared them for departure.

Upon boarding the vessel, students were asked to sign the ship’s manifest (the “Saint James School Compact”) and were given their passenger papers (classwork). Next, they settled their belongings in the tight sleeping quarters – one space being designated for boys and a separate space for girls. After everyone was on board, the classroom door was shut and all the students settled in for their day “at sea”.

Although the fifth grade teachers did remain in the classroom, the students (led by their two designated captains) were solely responsible for completing their work, maintaining a peaceful ship, and working as a team to overcome challenges. Two “ministers” on the ship ensured that hourly prayers were said. When rations started to dwindle, students took turns fishing out the window.

Students encountered “storms” and other challenges during their day at sea. As the school day came to a close, “land” was sighted and preparations for debarking began. Students will be writing about their experiences in their journal. Below are some pictures from this fun activity (click to enlarge):