First Ship

Hands on Our History: Rigging & Ropework for Traditional Vessels & Life Traditional Art, Historic Culture & Modern Science

Media Contact:  Ashley Hoskins |

Fourth and fifth grade students from across RSU 1’s gifted and talented program attended a hands on day of history learning at the Bath Freight Shed, home of the Virginia. Kirstie Truluck, Program Coordinator shared, “Our purpose is to gather young novices together with talented mentors so that mentors can share handcraft skills and academic knowledge in the informal context of traditional hand craft work groups and free exploration.”

After receiving a brief orientation upon entry of the freight shed, students worked in small groups in a scavenger hunt style activity to find evidence from exhibits and artifacts to learn and respond to questions about the who, what, when, and why of the Popham Colony.  Students were briefly introduced to scientific cultural and historical elements of the visit which set the stage for the rest of our day with volunteers.

Head rigger, Jim Nelson, led the students in an interactive introduction to rope and rigging by providing a display and explanation of a variety of tools used for the rigging of a vessel like Virginia. Students each received a length of rope which they were invited to dissect to understand how rope works as well as the differences between modern and traditional fibers. This was followed with a knot tying activity in which students practiced several knots, including a reef (square) knot and bowline. 

Later, in two smaller groups, port and starboard, students worked with Jim and other volunteers David, Mike, and Bob, to craft grommets from natural fiber rope as well as how to worm, parcel, and serve a length of rope.  In order to learn how ropes are used aboard, students were invited to play “Sea Chantey Tug-o-War” which involved a song and working together to pull a rope. After their tug-o-war against each other, students had a tug-o-war against the riggers as they used a block and tackle, in order to introduce the concept of mechanical advantage.  The final portion of the day involved students working in small groups to rig a block and tackle as well as receiving a ship tour of Virginia from the dock.

Students most enjoyed making the rope grommets, which they proudly wore on their heads, and many rounds of singing “Haul Away Joe”. Thank you to Kirstie Truluck, Jim Nelson, and all the volunteers who made this trip possible for our students. We hope to schedule one additional visit with Maine’s First Ship later this school year.

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