Since 1991 and before, students at the Bernice A. Ray School have reenacted the voyage of the Mayflower. Students have assumed the parts of some of the prominent original participants on the historic voyage of the Pilgrims in 1620. The students have enjoyed a Mayflower meal (foods like those that the Pilgrims would have eaten on the original voyage). They have painted pictures of the ship in a large mural, and they have made and painted a model of the ship using boxes for the decks and sunflower stalks for the masts.

In 1999, Bruce Williams, Margaret Jernstedt, and Tanya Alexander began discussion of how a large-scale model could be constructed for children to assemble each year at the Ray School. Margaret knew Bill Braasch, a well-known and respected artist and designer who worked with wood in Lyme, NH. Bill agreed to undertake the project.

The children that year were involved in all stages of the planning. They viewed the blueprints, and they went to Bill’s studio to view the construction in progress.

The ship was designed to fit in front of the wall between Rooms 3 and 4 in the K1 Pod. The ship is assembled with four major sections. This allows it to be moved relatively easily. The portholes provide entry for the children. Joan Collison sewed the sails for the ship. Each year since 1999, some K-1 students have also been involved in the assembly of the ship. Students lashed the sails and then hoist the masts.

The ship has been available for all students in the school to visit and use as a tool to foster imaginary trips of exploration or migration. Students have enjoyed singing a rewrite of the song that begins with the words, “When I was one, I’d just begun the day I went to sea… .” Students have gone on board the ship to recall their ancestors’ journeys to this country from other continents. They have enjoyed thinking of it as a “Ship of Dreams,” and all K-1 students have visited the ship each year. This model of the Mayflower is a symbol of the spirit of our American ancestors and of the spirit of our country, our community, and our school. It has helped us develop our understanding of what it means to be “We, the people …”

The Ray School’s model of the Mayflower is mothballed in seasons other than the late fall around Thanksgiving. Then, Dave Stewart and his assistants return the ship to the students from its dock deep in the hold of the Ray School basement.

Margaret Jernsdtedt
K-l Teacher