Salty Talk: A vocabulary activity

Every sailor on Constitution was part of an 8-13-strong family called a mess, and they referred to each other as “messmates.” Have your students ever heard of a “mess hall” or “scuttlebutt?” View the Sailors Eating scene in Explore Old Ironsides with your students and teach them a vocabulary and English idiom lesson. Encourage them to pick a word or phrase from our list of Salty Talk and to research its roots. Many of the words and phrases like “learn the ropes,” “mind your P’s & Q’s,” and “pipe down,” have maritime roots or became popular on ships. Ask students to identify what the phrases mean today and speculate on their evolution.

Daily Diet Intake: A Sailor in 1812 and you!

Have your students record a detailed log of what they eat during a 24-hour period, including snacks and beverages. Afterwards, compare examples of your students’ Daily Diet Logs to the food that was allotted to a sailor aboard Constitution in 1812. How is a sailor's daily diet different than a student’s? What has changed over time, and why? Take this activity a step further to include the intake of calories per day, comparing a student’s intake of calories to an 1812 sailor’s, and even to a modern combat ration.

The Real Thing: Shipís Biscuit
and the Recipe

This ship's biscuit is REAL. A sailor kept it as a souvenir, writing “Constitution” and recording the date, 1861 on it. Why do your students think a sailor saved this? Can you imagine saving a piece of bread today? What do we save instead as souvenirs? Make ship’s biscuit and visit the “Galley at Dinnertime” educator scene to find more recipes to cook with your students!

Sailors Eating

Every sailor on Constitution is part of a 12-strong family called a mess. "Messmates" are not related, but they might as well be, for they are as close as brothers. Each mealtime, they gather in the same spot on the berth deck, spread out a cloth, and sit round it cross-legged to share their food. In a mess, everyone is equal, whatever their age or rank, and they can choose their messmates. This is a rare freedom in a world where officers control almost everything else they do.

Whatís in THIS? Guess the Ingredient

Play this multiple choice game to discover the ingredients in some of Constitution sailors’ meals. Take a closer look at some of the ingredients suggested with your students. What would make it difficult, or easier, to take these ingredients with you to sea? Consider the environment, the time out to sea without any port calls (stops ashore), and the technology of 1812.

Compare and Contrast: Sailors Eating
and the Wardroom

Have your students view both the “Sailors Eating” and the “Wardroom” scenes in Explore Old Ironsides. Ask students to draw up a compare and contrast chart of their observations. In the wardroom, officers gathered to eat at a table, sat in chairs, and ate off china and crystal. They were served by a sailor assigned to them and could spend their own money on better provisions and drank wine with dinner. Sailors sat cross legged on the deck, ate food cooked in bulk and had more crowded conditions. Can students draw a parallel to different “ranks” at a school and their eating habits or locations?  Note: see the annotated scene of the “Wardroom” for authentic artifacts to study.