Standing at the harbor in Plymouth, Massachusetts on a sunny Saturday morning, it is clear why the Pilgrims on the Mayflower decided to come ashore in 1620. Few people realize that the Pilgrims actually first landed in Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod. They were trying to get to the mouth of the Hudson River in New York but missed. We visited the site of their first landing on the Cape. Although we were stunned by the natural beauty of the National Seashore, the rugged, wind-whipped dunes and crashing waves were in stark contrast to Plymouth’s protected tranquil harbor.
As we wandered the streets of this famous colony, past Plymouth Rock, and eventually onto the decks of the Mayflower II, I feverishly read from various sources I had collected. It was expensive for our family to board this replica for a self-guided tour. I was going to make sure we got the most bang for our buck and that we covered this entire unit of American history with fervor. When I looked up, my daughter was “swabbing the deck” of this beautiful (and rustic) boat, and my sons were talking to a “pilgrim” and calculating how much land their father would have been offered to make the 66-day voyage.
As we loaded into our car after our visit to Plymouth, with the smell of freshly tarred ropes and gentle, salty breezes lingering, questions surfaced rapidly:
- What kind of conflict did the Pilgrims have with the Native Americans on the Cape?
- How much was a crossing on the Mayflower?
- Did the crew also want to settle in the New World or was it just their job to go?
- Could you pick out the land you were offered or was it already done when you arrived?
- What kinds of games did kids play to pass the time if they couldn’t go on the deck while sailing?
- How did they track currents on the pegboard they used for speed and distance? What was that board called?
- What if they changed their mind? Could they go back to England?
Just as I was about to unload everyone and haul them back to the boat to get the answers to their questions, my husband said, “They never would have asked these questions if we didn’t climb aboard.” I was silent as the power of his statement washed over me. Answers can be found with ease these days. Insatiable questions are harder to come by. What I initially thought was an expensive field trip, turned into an invaluable lesson, not for the students but for the teacher.
“By the way mom,” my son exclaimed as we headed away from the harbor, “Dad would have been given 350 acres because of us! What do you think? Would you make the trip?”