The Mary Celeste Lesson Plan
About this book
Subject Area: History
Reading Level: 3.0
The Mary Celeste set sail from New York harbor in November 1872. One month later, she was discovered — completely abandoned but undamaged-off the coast of Portugal. What happened to her captain and crew? No one ever found out, but this fascinating and informative treatment offers clues and hypotheses.
Students will act as historical detectives in posing solutions to the mystery of the Mary Celeste .
Standard: Students will gain an understanding and knowledge of how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns.
The Mary Celeste was carrying valuable cargo when she was discovered adrift. How are things transported in our modern world?
- Ask students to recall the cargo of the Mary Celeste (raw alcohol).
- Have them determine how long it took the Mary Celeste to make her journey.
- Compare and contrast her voyage to the modern shipping methods we have available today — truck, airplane, freighter, train.
- How much time could suppliers have saved if they had been able to send their freight by airplane? by train? by truck? Research the speed of modern oceangoing cargo ships as well.
- Ask students to think of ways in which this faster pace of travel has improved our lives. How, if at all, has it had a negative effect?
Solve the Mystery!
Encourage your students to be detectives!
- Talk about the various solutions posed by the authors of The Mary Celeste .
- Ask each student to pick one of the proposed solutions, or to come up with a unique possibility.
- Have each student support his or her choice with information from the book.
- Ask each student to create a time line that supports his or her solution.
- Have each student list clues from the book that support his or her solution.
- Share each student's conclusions with the class. Talk about which conclusions make the most sense and which make the least.
- Post students' time lines on a classroom bulletin board.
My Time Line
Help students learn about chronological relationships and use them as the little girl narrator of The Mary Celeste does.
- Ask each student to pick a major event in his or her life. Examples could include the birth of a sibling, the adoption of a family pet, a fun vacation, or a special celebration.
- Have each student draw an appropriate time line. Help each to decide whether his or her time line needs to be divided into months, days, or even hours.
- Start with the major event. You may wish to instruct students to place it on the right-hand side of the time line, but not necessarily at the end, because they may wish to include some follow-up to the event.
- Ask students to plot in chronological order preparations made for the event. For instance, the adoption of a family pet may have entailed online research conducted on various pets, visits to pet stores, the choosing of a name, the selection of a pet, and various household accommodations made for the pet.
- Post the completed time lines around your room.
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