Preservation Through Education: Activities & Programs

Students, equipped with a slate, compass, and measuring tape, begin their journey down the imaginary anchor line to the shipwreck awaiting them on the lake bottom or seabed. They have left the realm of their classroom to become underwater archaeologists, sent to document the history entombed within our country’s vast collection of shipwrecks. Like professional underwater archaeologists in the field, the"dive" team communicates only by hand signals, taught to them just moments before. They begin their detailed sketches of the mock shipwreck that lie across the classroom floor.

A painted strip of canvas stands in for the actual shipwreck site, but it is easy for students to envision an intact shipwreck filled with artifacts from centuries past. Each student has a role, and the team works together to discover the mysteries that this time capsule holds. By putting archaeological techniques into practice, these students advance their math, science, and problem solving skills, as well as delve into historic research. Through simulated archaeological and historic research, students solve the mysteries surrounding the wreck site: What ship is it? Who sailed her? How did she sink? What role did she play in our maritime heritage?

This maritime heritage-based lesson plan generates excitement among students and peaks their curiosity about the people who lived and worked along our coasts and the events that shaped who we are today. Activities like this offer experiences and information that help make the past real for participants.

The following links are downloadable pdfs for the lesson plan Mock Shipwreck: A Lesson in Maritime Archaeology.  This lesson was developed by educators from the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries to be used in both formal and informal education settings.

plan and profile view mosaic of the schooner E.B. Allen
The plan and profile view mosaic of the schooner E.B. Allen sunk in Thunder Bay NMS in 1871. This lesson plan was based on this wreck site located in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Photo-mosaic: Tane Casserley