Sad Seasick Sailors

K, 1, 2

This lesson gives the students background information on the voyage of the Mayflower to America. Students role-play the relationship between the Pilgrims and the sailors.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • recall information about the voyage to America.
  • solve a problem as a group.
  • role-play the relationship between the sailors and Pilgrims on the Mayflower.
  • Copy of If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 by Anne McGovern
  • Pilgrim and Sailor Cards (See Teacher Note)
  • Journals and pencils
  • Pilgrim and sailor hats (See Teacher Note)
  • World Map
Teacher Preparation 

Before class time, make sets of pilgrim and sailor hats. This can be as simple as construction-paper strips made into circles to fit each child and labeled “Pilgrim” and “Sailor” or something more elaborate if you wish. Prepare Pilgrim and sailor cards with the following information: Pilgrim Cards:At the beginning of the voyage, we were sick all the time. The sailors call us “glib-glabitty puke stockings”. We also pray a lot and like to sing holy songs. We don’t like the sailors. They use bad language and smell bad. By the end of the voyage we were grateful to the sailors for getting us safely to the new world.Sailor Cards: We love the sea. We work hard to keep the ship running smoothly. Sure, sometimes we use bad language. We don’t like the pilgrims because they act like they are better than us. We would like to throw half of them into the sea. We don’t take baths or change our clothes. We’re too tired at the end of the day to fuss with that. By the end of the voyage, we had to admit that the pilgrims had plenty of courage. Although students will be encouraged to get in “character” for this role-play experience, they should be carefully coached in advance about appropriate behavior and language.

Home Connection 

None for this lesson.

  • McGovern, Anne. If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620. Scholastic, 1993. ISBN: 0590451618


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Play the Water Music Suite by Handel or sing their “Water Song” from Lesson One: Get on the Boat.

  2. Ask the students to recall the purpose of the voyage on the Mayflower. Tell them that the sailors and the Pilgrims shared this small space on the boat for a long time. Sometimes they didn’t get along. Ask them to recall how they feel when they go on a long trip in the car. Do they fight with their brothers and sisters?

    • Tell the students that today some of them are going to pretend to be Pilgrims and some of them are going to be sailors. Pass out the hats and cards so half of the students on each boat from Lesson One: Get on the Boat are Pilgrims and half are sailors. Let them read the information on the card to get in character (for younger children, the information on the cards can be read aloud to them)

    • Locate or have a student locate Holland/The Netherlands on the map. Draw a line from Holland to America to show where the pilgrims are trying to go. Identify or have the students identify the Atlantic Ocean. Put an X somewhere in the middle of the ocean between Holland and America to show where the pilgrims and students are at this point in the voyage.

    • Tell the children that today they (as sailors and Pilgrims) have a problem to solve. There has been a bad storm. During the storm, the main beam of the ship cracked and the deck has a big hole in it. Water is pouring in. Tell the children they have ten minutes to come up with a solution or the ship is going to sink.
  3. Give the sailors and Pilgrims in each boat ten minutes to talk about possible solutions. Encourage them to pretend to be the sailors and Pilgrims as they discuss the problem.

    • After ten minutes, have each group report their solution to the class. Write each solution on the board. Look at all the solutions as a class and discuss what might have been the best solution for the Mayflower.

    • Read pages 28 and 29 from If you Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620 (see Bibliographical References) about how they actually solved the problem.

    • Discuss how the sailors and Pilgrims needed each other. Ask students to describe how the trip would have been different for the Pilgrims if there had been no sailors. The sailors wouldn’t have taken the trip if the Pilgrims hadn’t hired them.

    • Discuss whether you have to like everything about someone in order to be able to work with them. Guide the students to recognize that the sailors and Pilgrims were working for the common good. Lead them to realize that in their classroom and community, they also work for the common good. Sometimes they have to set aside their own preferences for the sake of the common good.

    • The Pilgrims and sailors came to respect each other. Discuss the importance of having respect for each other and each others’ ideas when you are part of a group/community.


Teacher Observation (Use the observation grid explained in Lesson One: Get on the Boat.) Have the students write or draw in their journals about solving the problem from the point of view of the Pilgrims or the sailors. As an extension, they can also write about it from the opposite point of view.

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Identify lack of religious, economic, or political freedom as a motivating factor for migration to a new country.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.