Get on the Boat
  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.6 Identify lack of religious, economic, or political freedom as a motivating factor for migration to a new country.

This lesson introduces the voyage of the Mayflower. The students learn the definition of a pilgrim and experience simulated conditions on the voyage.

PrintOne Forty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define pilgrim as someone who goes on a journey, for a specific reason.
  • write about the physical conditions on the Mayflower journey from the point of view of a pilgrim.
  • Journals and pencils
  • Chart paper and marker
  • Words to “The Water Song” (Attachment One)
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: Send a note home asking the families to discuss the importance of religious freedom in our country. Some families may also have family (or personal) stories of leaving home for the uncertainty of a new home. Encourage them to discuss these issues.


None for this lesson.

  1. Prior to lesson: For every eight students, tape the perimeter of a 4’ x 8’ rectangle on the floor of your classroom.

    Anticipatory Set:

    Divide the class into groups of eight children and direct each group to stand within one of the rectangles outlined on the floor. Tell the children that they are taking a long journey, or trip, on a boat. Tell them to imagine they are on a boat in the middle of the ocean so they may not step over the tape line. (At the beginning of each lesson in this unit the students will board their “boats” and remain there for as long as the teacher feels it is a good learning environment.)

    Teach students the “The Water Song.” (see Attachment One).

  2. Suggest some scenarios for the students to imagine such as seeing some whales, staying under deck in the rain, sleeping within that small space, etc.

  3. Tell the students—while they are still on their boats—that they should think about missing their homes because this journey is taking them far away from home and they will never be able to go back. They may be leaving neighbors, grandparents, friends, houses, pets and all the places they have grown up with. They cannot go back because they left a place where they did not have religious freedom. The government in England told them how to worship.

  4. The people who journeyed on a boat four hundred years ago in these conditions called themselves “Pilgrims.” A pilgrim is someone who travels on a journey, especially to a sacred place. Ask the students if they have ever heard of pilgrims. Write down on a chart the facts the students think they know about pilgrims. Discuss why pilgrim is an appropriate name for them.

  5. If the students don’t mention these, share the following facts: The name of their boat was “The Mayflower.” They traveled across the ocean in very tight quarters to find a new home in a land that they knew little about. They were willing to take these risks, leave their home and live in a “wilderness” because having freedom to worship was very important to them.

  6. Ask the children how they like their boat. Write their answers on the chart. Teacher Note: These are crowded conditions. At any time during the lesson you can have the children get out of the boat and return to their seats if behavior becomes a problem. But if possible, the students should remain in the space to feel the effects of the crowded conditions for the duration of the lesson.

  7. Pass out journals when students are back at their seats. Have the children write from the point of view of a pilgrim on the Mayflower about the conditions on their boat. Younger children may draw pictures. They should write about their feelings, comfort, hopes and fears.

  8. Allow some willing students to share their journal entries.


Monitor student participation in this lesson and throughout the unit with a simple grid. Divide a page into boxes equal to the number of students in the class. Write a name in each box and leave room for comments. Keep the paper accessible during the lesson so you can jot notes in the boxes, make an X for an incident of non-participation, or write comments for later reference. Refer to the notes after the lesson to help with individual reteaching, behavior modification or documenting student comprehension.