A voyage into history: Pupils get taste of life in the 17th century Youngsters tour Maryland Dove

November 02, 1993|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

Sleeping for weeks in the belly of a tossing ship, fighting pirates and working four-hour shifts around the clock sounded like great fun to a group of Mayo Elementary School pupils yesterday.

Touring the Maryland Dove, docked on the South River in front of London Town Publik House in Edgewater, the children were supposed to learn about the hardships endured by Colonial sailors and settlers who came to Maryland more than 350 years ago. But through the eyes of 9-year-olds, the hardships seemed like adventures.

"I would have liked to have been an officer," said Jami Meredith, who saw the cramped officers' bunks in the stern of the ship.

Sleeping on board the ship wouldn't have been so bad, observed Lisa Young. "It would be like a water bed rocking," she said.

The Maryland Dove, a reproduction of a 17th century merchant ship, is named after the ship that carried supplies for the first Maryland colonists in 1634. It visited the South River and the London Town Publik House for the first time. The museum ship usually is moored in the St. Mary's River, near the site of the first Maryland capital.

More than 150 students from southern Anne Arundel elementary and middle schools toured the ship and the 18th century London Town Publik House. The ship and house were open for public tours later in the day.

The blustery weather added to the realism of life aboard a ship in the open seas and brought to mind the winter day when the first Maryland colonists landed at St. Mary's City.

"What happened if you were attacked at night?" a fourth-grader asked a crewman.

"I'd try to run away," the crewman replied.

Inside the London Town Publik House, a group of sixth-grade social studies students from Central Middle School were excitedly asking questions and giving answers about the accouterments of an 18th century home and tavern.

They inquired about items ranging from iron kettle holders over the fireplaces to engravings of the king of England. They also recognized many of the items they had read about in their classes, correctly identifying a plug of tobacco, a small fireplace lamp and a pair of reading glasses.

"Who invented spectacles?" the guide asked.

A flurry of hands flew up, and one pupil quickly answered, "Benjamin Franklin."

The guide pointed out a group of sketches on one wall and explained that they had been drawn by the wife of a man in debtor's prison. "Who knows what debtor's prison is?" he asked.

"A place you go when you owe money," a pupil answered.

Pointing out a rope bed, which had to be tied tight, and telling of the insects that infested the straw mattresses of the day, the guide explained the origin of the expression, "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite."

Victoria Waidner, principal of Mayo Elementary School, said such field trips help bring to life the history the pupils read about.

"Here it's a hands-on experience," she said. "They get a feeling of what it was really like."

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