Mettawee third-graders set sail in all-day learning experience

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WEST PAWLET — Last month, a crew of Mettawee Community School 3rd graders, their classroom teachers Jennifer Leach and Mark Rampone, and parent volunteers spent the day aboard The Welcome, replicating the sailing voyage led by William Penn in 1682 to the new colony of Pennsylvania.

Throughout the day, with sails hanging from the ceiling (created by students and faculty), visitors to The Welcome (set in Leach's classroom) saw students, teachers and guests dressed as 17th century colonists. Leach explained that the students got to create and take part in traditional crafts and games that would have occupied children and/or passengers aboard a ship for the long 2-to-6 month journey.

"They learned how to tie boat knots and how to make hand-string figures and play games (like Cat's Cradle). They also created and learned to play Jack Straws (present day Pick Up Sticks), as well as learned to play marbles using homemade clay marbles they had made prior to our trip," Leach said. "All learned to hand sew, and this led to making their own ditty bags."

One of the best parts of the experience, Leach said, was "it was a full-day immersion project where the students walked into school as a 'new person' with a colonial persona that he or she had created."

Students had to sign a ship's manifest as their character, and didn't get off the "ship" all day. "From the masts and sails set up, to the language we were using, to the snacks and food like hardtack and dehydrated fruit, we tried to make our study of history come alive for the students," Leach said,.

Students even huddled under desks to recreate the feeling of being enclosed in a small space such as the sailors would have experienced during the ocean crossing.

The voyage had a happy ending. "All made it to Pennsylvania and disembarked right before dismissal!" Lynch said.


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