Maine Maritime Museum educators have been busy welcoming families to our monthly STEM + Arts (STEAM) program, STEAMBox. In these workshops, families explore maritime topics through hands-on learning through creativity and problem-solving. How do boats float? How do local animals survive winter? Or how do we know about sailors lives from long ago? Read on to find out!
In November, families explored the principles of buoyancy by learning about mass, volume, and displacement. Participating families tested their knowledge by designing their own mini sailing ships by mounting a mast and sail onto a wooden hull and experimenting in a pool of water. After several rounds of design tweaks, the little boat builders were able to find the proper balance of ballast under the hull to keep the boats upright. Some even were able to carry cargo in the form of pennies!
Later this winter, a fresh coat of snow made for perfect tracking conditions at the fan-favorite animal-tracking and habitat session. After learning identification tricks, families followed tracks out onto the frozen marshland south of campus, using their tracking cards to identify marks in the snow. It had been a busy morning for MMM’s critters: foxes and crows hunting mice along tidal streams, squirrels collecting nuts and seeds beneath trees, and mice hastily darting from thicket to thicket, avoiding their hungry predators. We observed how the winter season plays an important role in supporting our local estuary ecosystem.
Our most recent workshop engaged families in exciting glimpses into the past from our collection’s journals and logbooks. How do we know what happened aboard ships from long ago, especially when they are far out at sea? From the words of the sailors themselves! Families first visited the Snowsquall exhibit to hear the story of Hubert Taylor, a teenage sailor who survived a harrowing journey around South America aboard this same ship – all recorded in his personal journal. We also explored other 18th and 19th –century log books and journals from a ship captain, an author seeking adventure aboard a clipper ship, and a young, homesick man from Topsham who decided early on in his first voyage that life at sea was not for him. We asked, “What would we write in our own journals today that people from the future would be interested in learning?” To make sure our stories could be told, we made our own journals using traditional bookbinding techniques and used paint to recreate the look of traditional marbled paper covers. Kirstie Truluck, Director of Maine’s First Ship, led families in knot-tying exercises to help us bind our books together. She introduced the journal that helped us learn about the first English-built vessel in North America, the Virginia, that sailed from the Popham Colony and across the Atlantic in 1607.
With so much more in our collection and on our grounds, this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we can offer families at MMM. Check out our events listing for upcoming STEAMBox programs, such as Mud-Season Microbiology and Shipwreck Archeology Detectives. We can’t wait to see what more families will learn at MMM this spring!
STEAMBox programs are generously funded by First Federal Savings, allowing MMM to offer this family program free to the public.