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Build Your Own Pilgrim Boat

In honor of the First Thanksgiving, we have a fun STEM challenge to get those minds moving!

As the story goes, English pilgrims sailed across the ocean in the Mayflower and arrived in the New World in 1620. That first winter in the New World was a difficult one, and many of the pilgrims perished under the harsh conditions. Those who survived established the Plymouth Colony in what we now know as Massachusetts.

A year later, the pilgrims at Plymouth and Native Americans from the Wampanoag tribe shared an autumn harvest feast. The first Thanksgiving was not just a big meal, but a way to celebrate a successful corn harvest. And turkey wasn't the only thing on the menu. The coastal colony had good access to fish and shellfish as well. No apple pie though... the pilgrims didn't have any butter or flour!

Thanksgiving didn't become the popular holiday it is today until two hundred years later, when Abraham Lincoln made declared it a national holiday in 1863. 
 
Looking for a fun activity to feed the mind before or after your family feast? Build a floating pilgrim boat! As you get started, ask yourself a couple of questions: How would you design a boat to keep it afloat in the ocean waves? How many pilgrims can you fit into your ship before it becomes too heavy? What would you bring with you on a cross-ocean journey?

Materials Needed
  • Toilet Paper Roll
  • Colored and white paper
  • Glue gun or glue stick
  • Aluminum foil
  • Scissors

Step 1

First we'll make our pilgrims! Grab your toilet paper roll and a strip of brown paper that is only half the width of the roll. Glue the paper completely around the roll. Repeat by gluing another strip of paper, this one black and slightly bigger, around the roll. 

Step 2

Build Your Own Pilgrim Boat | Womple Studios

Hold the roll up and down so that the black part is on the bottom. Cut out a 'collar' for your pilgrim out of white construction paper and glue it on to the top of the black strip of paper. Cut a small yellow square and glue it to the front of your pilgrim's body. This will be their shirt button! 

Step 3

Now it's time for hair and a hat! Cut out some hair for your pilgrim, leaving a little space for a face. Glue that in place. Then, add a hat! Wrap a black 'hat' piece of paper around the top of the pilgrim's hair and glue that in place, too. Go the extra mile and glue a small, thinner strip of black paper around the bottom of the hat to make your pilgrim extra special. Cut out another small yellow buckle (just like the one on the pilgrim's shirt) for the center of the hat.

Step 4

Build Your Own Pilgrim Boat | Womple Studios

Don't forget your arms! Cut out some arms (you'll probably want sleeves, too, unless your pilgrim is going sleeveless this Thanksgiving!) and glue them to the sides of your pilgrim.

Step 5 

Finish things off by drawing in a face (use some fun googly eyes if you have them) and a couple of shoes. Voila! Nice pilgrim!

Step 6

Build Your Own Pilgrim Boat | Womple Studios

Now it's time to begin your journey. First, write down some ideas on how you would build a boat to withstand the difficult journey from Europe to the New World. What materials would you build your boat out of? What shape would your boat be? Round, flat, square? Why? 

Step 7

Use materials around the house, like cardboard, tinfoil, wax paper, and construction paper, to build a sturdy boat for your pilgrim. Try different boat shapes and materials and see what works best. Choose wisely, or your pilgrim will get wet! 

Step 8

Build Your Own Pilgrim Boat | Womple Studios

Test your boats in a big bowl or bathtub (with parent supervision!) and see how you did. Need a bigger challenge? Add more pilgrims or supplies to see how much weight your boat can carry before it sinks! 

Tag us on social media @womplestudios to show us your pilgrim boat creations!

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