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Engaging your Child in History and the Study of the War of 1812

Updated on April 19, 2013
painting by Anton Otto Fischer depicting the first victory at sea by USS Constitution over HMS Guerriere
painting by Anton Otto Fischer depicting the first victory at sea by USS Constitution over HMS Guerriere | Source

Ship's Diagrams and Mini Games

Looking for a new and interesting way to get your children excited about history? The USS Constitution Museum has created a fun and educational website called A Sailor’s Life for Me! The site will not only introduce your child to the war of 1812 and life aboard the USS Constitution but will also provide them with practice in math and budgeting, science, geography and language arts.

The “Explore Old Ironsides” button takes you to a diagram of the ship. Each of the different sections of the ship is coded with a purple dot. Hover over the dot and it tells you the name of that part of the ship. Click on the dot and it brings up a drawing depicting the sailors going about their lives on that part of the ship and a brief description of the details of that segment of the USS Constitution. Also, to help keep your child engaged, they've included a search for Guerriere, the ship’s dog, throughout the exploration of "Old Ironsides". The dog is hidden 11 times throughout the ship drawings. (He barks are runs away when clicked on.),

There are mini games that will introduce your child to some of the activities in a sailor’s life. These are divided into daily duties, gun crew and leisure time. And there is also a page of additional family activities to supplement the online games.

  • “What Floats Your Boat?” is a supplemental activity which will teach your child about the science of buoyancy.
  • “Ready? Aim. Fire!” teaches your child science and math.
  • “Constructing Constitution” will introduce your child to the history of the ships construction as well as allowing him to build his own model.
  • There is even a recipe for ship’s biscuits if you child would like to really experience life aboard ship.

Aside from those listed here there are several other activities on the family activities page.

Ditty-bag created in the game
Ditty-bag created in the game

Lesson Plans

Moreover the site makes it easy for parents and educators to incorporate the information they provide into complete lessons. Under educator resources is a “Search! Lesson Plans” tab. You can search by grade (kindergarten through twelfth), subject (geography, language arts, math, science, social studies and visual arts), type of resource (sailor’s stories, primary resource, artifact, game, lesson plan or classroom activity) or keywords. The lesson plans give you the target grade level, approximate time, overview, materials list and then it breaks down the activity into time increments and instruction for each section of the lesson. The site even provides an easy-to-read history of the War of 1812 and breakdown of how to teach the War of 1812. Whatever your skill level and your child’s grade level this site will walk you through providing them with a wealth of knowledge with minimal preparation and planning on your part.

However, the best part of the site is the game. It will take several days for your child to learn all that he can from the game. But if you register it will save your child’s progress. Registration is free and does not even require an email address (though if you are worried about forgetting your password you can provide one). The game begins with the player starting as a young boy just joining the navy. The player will be given a seven question “quiz”. The answers do not matter as this is just a way to share knowledge about a sailor’s life. (While some parts of the game are vocalized not all parts are so if you have a younger player you will want to sit with him and read the words.) Once a player is accepted into the navy he will receive his first two months’ pay and be instructed to purchase several items of clothing for his uniform. After the uniform is purchased the player is allowed on board where he can begin moving up the ranks by earning promotion points. Health, happiness and popularity will also fluctuate depending upon the player’s choices.

A Sailor's Life for Me Game

The game itself will teach your child a lot about what it meant to be a sailor at that time. It will also teach him to budget as he is required to make certain purchases throughout the game as well as maintaining his basic necessities. Moreover, the game will also be “interrupted” periodically for historical tidbits, like how the ship received its nickname and how many where killed and wounded in the ship’s first battle. Thought the graphics are similar to illustrations in children’s books and the basic concept of the game is fairly simple, the ability to immerse yourself into the life of a sailor should keep your child engaged.

This site provides a wealth of information in a manner that your child will find entertaining and engaging. The lesson plans are diverse and thorough. Take a little time and find a way to incorporate it into your own classroom and you will not be disappointed.


The earliest known depiction of USS Constitution - Attributed to Michel Felice Corné (1752–1845)
The earliest known depiction of USS Constitution - Attributed to Michel Felice Corné (1752–1845) | Source

Further Materials for Teaching the War of 1812

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