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Voyages in a Bottle

Create a fitting tribute to explorers of the high seas. Design tiny sailing ships in a recycled plastic bottle.

  • Grade 3
    Grade 4
    Grade 5
  • Multiple Lesson Periods
  • Directions

    1. Imagine the bravery needed to be an explorer! Think about getting in a ship and heading where no one else has gone. Explorers often brought misery to the indigenous people they came upon and their exploits changed the course of history. Learn more about the consequences of their journeys.
    2. Early sailing ships were incredible monuments to the fine art of boat building. Since the 17th century, craftspeople have recreated models of these splendid ships in miniature, building them so they fit inside glass bottles (even a light bulb). Find out how model builders work inside such small spaces. Is it with very long tweezers?
    3. Make ships’ hulls. With the help of an adult, cut jumbo craft sticks into ship hulls with a sharp knife (one for each boat, such as the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria). Label the ship and add decorative flourishes with Crayola Fine Line Markers.
    4. Create sails. Cut out tiny paper sails with Crayola Scissors. Color the sails with Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils. Spike these on the ends of wooden toothpicks. Attach the toothpicks to the back of the ship with Crayola School Glue. Air-dry the glue.
    5. Prepare a base. Attach each sailing ship to a small square of wood. Color the base to blend in with the waves. Glue crinkled crepe paper under and around the base to make waves. Air-dry the glue.
    6. Assemble your voyage. Ask an adult to cut a three-sided opening in the bottom of a plastic bottle, leaving one short end uncut and attached. Fold out the plastic bottle flap and slip your ship inside. Glue the ship to the bottle and glue the flap closed.
    7. Label your explorers. Cut a posterboard rectangle. Fold one end of it around a ruler three times and unfold. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise. With Crayola Markers, label both pieces on one side with the name of your explorer. Fold both pieces into up
  • Standards

    LA: Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

    LA: Read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grade level text complexity band independently and proficiently.

    LA: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade level topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

    LA: Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.

    LA: Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

    MATH: Convert like measurement units within a given measurement system.

    SS: Identify examples of institutions an describe the interactions of people with institutions.

    SS: Use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools to generate, manipulate, and interpret information.

    SS: Explore the role of technology in communications, transportation, information-processing, weapons development, or other areas as it contributes to or helps resolve conflicts.

    SS: Give examples of conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and nations.

    VA: Select media, techniques, and processes; analyze what makes them effective or not effective in communicating ideas; and reflect upon the effectiveness of choices.

    VA: Intentionally take advantage of the qualities and characteristics of art media, techniques, and processes to enhance communication of experiences and ideas.

  • Adaptations

    Possible classroom resources include: Explorers Who Got Lost by Diane Sansevere-Dreher; DK Eyewitness Books: Explorer by Rupert Matthews; Jacques Cartier: Exploring the St. Lawrence River by Jennifer Lackey; Ponce De Leon: Exploring Florida and Puerto Rico by Rachel Eagen; Ferdinand Magellan: Circumnavigating the World by Katharine Bailey; Hernando Cortes: Spanish Invader of Mexico by John Paul Zronik; Marco Polo by Demi; The Look-It-Up Book of Explorers by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel

    Encourage students to investigate the role of technology in aiding explorers to sail the world. Organize research into an electronic format for presentation to classmates.

    Working in small groups, students research individual explorers from the Age of Discovery. Use recycled materials to create costumes to wear when presenting information about the selected explorer to classmates.

    Students keep a daily travel journal with sketches documenting their travel on the open seas. Organize journal entries into a booklet format for classroom display.


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  • Creativity.
  • Capacity.
  • Collaboration.
  • Change.
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