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Fun & Games

“Old Ironsides” Activity Book

Prepare to set sail on a seafaring adventure. Explore the life of a young sailor on board USS Constitution during the War of 1812 from recruiting to battle to victorious homecoming. Tie a knot, try a sailor’s recipe, tell a tall tale, and test your courage in battle.

With the rich illustrations of renowned artist Stephen Biesty and the lively text of award-winning author Richard Platt, the Museum’s extensive research into both the lives of USS Constitution’s ordinary crewmembers and how families learn and engage with history comes together into one incredible resource.

Now raise the anchors and sail into the War of 1812!

Chapter 1: Join the Crew

Come join USS Constitution‘s War of 1812 crew. All healthy, strong, and brave souls are welcome to apply and sail against the enemy for “free trade and sailors’ rights.”

Chapter 2: Meet Your Shipmates

USS Constitution is a massive and complex fighting machine and it takes 450-500 men to keep her at sea. Meet your shipmates and find out how you compare to the average 1812 sailor.

Chapter 3: All Hands on Deck

Discover the skills and teamwork required to operate USS Constitution 24 hours a day. From the cook to the topman, everyone’s job on a warship is interrelated and important.

Chapter 4: Sail to Victory

An enemy ship has been spotted! Prepare for battle and learn how USS Constitution gains her lasting nickname of “Old Ironsides” against the British ship, HMS Guerriere.

Chapter 5: Return Home

News of Constitution‘s victory spreads quickly. Receive a hero’s welcome and learn about the fates of your fellow shipmates after the War of 1812.

Hands-On Activities

Become a Navigator

Part of the Midshipmen’s education on board was navigation, or learning to determine Constitution’s location and direction at sea. Make your own navigation tool to measure the height of an object above the horizon.

Command the Crew

Try your hand at commanding a crew like Captain Hull with this fun nautical version of “Simon Says.”

Cook a Sailor’s Meal

Feeling hungry? Print out and cook your own 1812 sailor’s meal featuring ship’s biscuit, dandyfunk, switchel, hot chocolate, and plum duff.

Keep a Logbook

Midshipmen had to keep a copy of the Ship’s logbook. In each logbook entry, they recorded the date, weather, and major events that happened that day. Print out and make your own logbook to record what’s going on in your life!

LEGO® USS Constitution Instructions

Build USS Constitution out of LEGO® bricks with step-by-step instructions created by the USS Constitution Museum.

Make and Fire Your Own Cannon

Are you ready to have a blast? Make your own miniature cannon with an old film container and some Alka-Seltzer® tablets.  Note! Adult supervision required.

Make a Marine Stock

As early as 1797, Marines wore a stiff collar called a “stock.” Keep your head held up high by making your own version of this important uniform piece.

Make a Paper Boat (Easy)

Separated from family and friends ashore, sailors considered the ship, home, and their shipmates, family. Try your hand at origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, to create a model of the sailors’ home afloat.

Make a Paper Boat (Harder)

Try your hand at origami, the ancient Japanese art of paper folding, to create this paper ship model that floats!

Make a Paper Dog

Make the Museum’s mascot, Guerriere the Terrier, using these origami directions. Once you finish, make sure to give him a personality by coloring his eyes and nose.

March Like a Marine

To be effective in battle, Marines learned to work and move together. Gather a group together and practice marching like a Marine!

Play a Dice Game

“Going to Boston” was a popular dice game on land and at sea. It’s a simple game that can be played almost anywhere.

Tell a Tall Tale

Sailors are known for spinning yarns (telling tall tales) about dramatic adventures they’ve had and outrageous things that they have seen. Work with a friend to fill in these stories and then have fun reading your new tall tale.

Tie a Knot

Sailors have to know how to tie many knots. See if you can learn the ropes.

Write a Secret Message

Print out our Signal Flag Decoding Chart and start challenging your friends and family to decode your encrypted message.

Development of the Old Ironsides Activity Book was made possible through federal funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners. Illustrations copyright Stephen Biesty, 2009-2010. Text copyright USS Constitution Museum and Richard Platt, 2009-2012.