Descriptive Writing:
Sights, Sounds, and Smells

What are your students’ chores at home? Do they have to sweep, vacuum, or mop the floors? Holystoning was a chore for sailors on board Constitution. Investigate the “Holystoning” scene from Explore Old Ironsides and then read the historic quotes to your students, written from the point of view of a sailor and an officer. Have your students write a descriptive writing piece about the “Holystoning” scene, imagining they are a holystoning sailor or a supervising officer. Have them consider: sights, sounds, sensation, emotions, and their physical movements.

Sailor’s Story:
Peter Adams, a Boatswain

Peter Adams served as Boatswain on Constitution during the War of 1812. His duty was to keep Constitution clean and in good repair, and to supervise the common sailors while they performed their duties. Read his story with your students and learn about the daily routine of the sailors that kept Constitution functioning.

Can you swab the deck? Try it out!

Imagine how hard it was to keep the deck clean! Challenge your students to scrub the deck with the rest of their mates with this interactive Holystoning Game.

Simple Machines Activity

Have your students work together to plan, design and build a simple machine to help Constitution sailors holystone the deck. View our Simple Machines Lesson Plan to learn about the simple machines already used on board Constitution and challenge your students to create new inventions to simplify life for the sailors.


Constitution's decks are smooth, white and spotlessly clean. Keeping them that way is the seamens' most unpopular chore. They do it by scrubbing the planks with "holystones" great slabs of gritty rock. Smaller "prayer books" clean the tight corners. Sprinkling the deck with salt water and coarse sand helps smooth the timbers. However, it also makes the task more unpleasant: the sailors must kneel on the wet grit with their pants rolled up.

Find Guerriere the Terrier!

Encourage your students to explore the scenes of Explore Old Ironsides for a specific pup – find Guerriere the Terrier in 11 places throughout the Ship. For an arts and crafts activity, you can download an image of Guerriere the Terrier, and learn about his life aboard Constitution. Go exploring with him as a class or individually to all your favorite places. Take a photo with Guerriere wherever you go, like on class field trips. Create his travel log with your students. Don’t forget to photograph him on his travels and post them on Guerriere’s Facebook page. Where in the world has Guerriere the Terrier been?

Understanding the Capstan: Engineering Concepts

Watch this video of the building of a capstan from HMS Victory, and learn more about how a capstan was built on this Ship Modeling site, and about the purpose of a capstan on large ships like Victory and Constitution. Can your students think of activities in their classroom that require everyone to help?