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Ahoy, Mates!
Here Lie a Dozen Pirate Treasures!

Aye, ye landlubbers! Take to the high seas for some fun and adventure with the theme of piracy! Meet Captain Dave, find out how he created his on-line search for lost treasure, and read about 12 other ways to bring privateers and mariners into your classroom activities. Hoist the Jolly Roger and set sail on an Internet voyage for educational loot! Arghhh!

Dave Goudsward, Web administrator for the Dauphin County Library System in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, has created an on-line alter ego named "Captain Dave." He is the main character in the system's Web scavenger hunt The Legend of Captain Dave's Lost Treasure. Through the adventure, children explore Web sites to answer questions that Captain Dave poses about pirates. When they are finished, they may send their responses to the library and be recognized in the published list of mates on Captain Dave's ship, the S.S. SusqueNet

"The goals in creating the site were pretty straightforward," Goudsward told Education World. "The site was designed to function as an on-line component of the 1997 summer reading program at the library. Up until then, SRP was oriented for home and library. We thought there might be a way to add another dimension to the program and promote the library's Web site as a resource for children. We wanted a program that would be entertaining for kids who had some experience with surfing the Net but also useful for children who needed to grasp basic Web navigation skills."


The theme of the summer program was Be a Bookaneer! Why the pirate theme? "Children like pirates because in the romanticized life that pirates lead, a pirate is just an oversized kid with an eye patch," said Goudsward. "Pirates get to dress funny, wave swords, shoot cannons, and swing from the mizzenmast. If somebody tries to pick on you, you shoot the cannon at him. Then you merrily sail away to another adventure with a chest of gold and a parrot on your shoulder.

"My poor wife is subjected to multiple rides through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World every trip," added Goudsward, "and we don't have any children!"

Children seem to share Goudsward's interest in swashbucklers. "We've had tremendous response worldwide to the program," he explained. "More than 300 children in 27 states and four countries have completed the adventure. That doesn't include kids in classes that submitted group answers. To this day, it remains one of the most heavily trafficked sections of our Web site."

The success of scavenger hunts such as Captain Dave's has bolstered their development on the Internet. What is the key to an exciting, enjoyable hunt? "The secret to designing a program is the answer," said Goudsward. "Once you have a riddle and a clever answer, you know how many letters you need. That gives you an indication of roughly how many sites you'll need to include. Using the theme, you build a story that allows you to insert a link to an external Web site with an answer to a question. The art and trivia are added last as space permits."

Goudsward's favorite external Web site about pirates is Treasure Island, a site based in the United Kingdom. It offers activities and accompanying background to the book by Robert Louis Stevenson. Many excellent educational links are included.

What is next for the rogue pirate Captain Dave? "He returned for this year's SRP adventure, spanning the history of transportation in From the Files of Page Turner," Goudsward stated. "It looks like he's coming back again next year for our most ambitious program to date, a space opera designed to make math fun. I personally didn't think he had it in him, but like his legend, he just continues his forward momentum."


Historical Debate. We are all familiar with the tale of Robin Hood, the character who, with his band of "merry" men, stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Many of us consider him a hero. A person who steals from the government or your next door neighbor is a criminal, however. Where is the distinction? Who decides which people are the "bad guys" and which are the "good guys"? Pirates are another example of this. While men who sold others into slavery gained respect and got rich, pirates were considered the scoundrels of the sea. In contrast, the men of the pirate ship Whydah organized themselves democratically and would have retired after gaining enough loot to support them for a great deal of time if their ship not been caught in a storm and destroyed. Read their story at Whydah Pirates @ and discuss the question of who our heroes should be and who should choose them.

Pirate Biographies. The Web is a virtual library of pirate facts, so put it to good use by having your students create biographies of their favorite pirate characters. You will find resources about Captain Kidd; Sir Henry Morgan; Sir Francis Drake; Roberto Cofresi; and the king of the scourges, Blackbeard, at When Blackbeard Scourged the Seas.

Pirate Tales. Ahoy there, matey! Would you be looking for a way to teach your mates to speak like pirates? The Pirates! Fact-Vocabulary has the munitions to get the job done. When they've learned the dialect, have the lads and lasses write some adventurous tales of pirates on the high seas. Mutiny and cutlasses are the stuff good fantasy is made of! Aaargh!

Treasure Maps. You can make simulated pirate maps with your buccaneers! All you need are a few paper bags and markers or crayons. Have the students cut the bags to the size of the maps they want to make and then crumple the paper over and over until it is soft and looks worn. Then they may draw their maps on the paper with the markers or crayons. Combine this project with social studies by reviewing the directions north, south, east, and west before students begin to draw. To really age the maps, you may burn the edges of them unevenly -- obviously not a task for students! This is how the Year 5A class at Rochedale State School in Rochedale, Queensland, Australia, made their Pirate Maps more realistic. Check out the maps they have posted on their Pirates Homepage.

High Seas Adventure. Visitors to Pirates @ can learn about pirates and where they lived. Another option is to become a pirate by going on the High Seas Adventure at the site. Through this interactive experience, students choose pirate names for themselves and their ships, then sail on to discover information about life aboard pirating vessels. Fictional narratives based on authentic pirate records intrigue explorers as they are called on to answer questions in the tales with further investigation. Who runs the ship? Is it Blackbeard, Anne Bonny, Black Bart, or another scurvy dog? Answer correctly or you'll walk the plank! Not!

Pirate Page. Put your class's Web page skills to the test with a pirate page. Have the students search the Net and your library for pirate facts and information and use what they find to build a Web presentation. Images to adorn the page can be found on-line at Beej's Pirate Image Archive. If your students are too young to make Web pages, you may print some of the pictures and allow the students to color them or paste them into reports or on the covers of pirate booklets.

Buccaneer Behavior. Although most people consider piracy a thing of the past, some suggest that the type of behavior displayed by pirates is alive and well. Examine About Pirates and Their Lives with your students, and create a list of characteristics that pirates share, focusing on general traits. When you have finished, discuss the list and have students determine whom they consider modern-day buccaneers. Will they choose business people, political figures, heads of state, or common criminals? Does the definition best apply to Bill Gates or Osama bin Laden? Your students decide!

Buried Treasure Math. All you need to send your class on a hunt for buried treasure is a large bin of sand and imagination. Create a pirate story that explains how you ended up with the bin: "A huge crate arrived at my house yesterday, and this container of sand was inside. It belonged to my great-great-grandfather's uncle, who served as first mate on an English ship. We thought he had been lost at sea, but we later learned that he had joined the crew when his ship was captured by pirates. This is all that is left of his fortune, and I do not have any idea what it might be worth."

Have your students search through the sand for real or imitation coins, plastic jewelry, and any other booty you have hidden. When they finish sifting through the bin, work with them to record what they found and add it together to show the total of the fortune. You can label the assorted plastic items or assign a value to them as they are uncovered. Make the tale more interesting by writing it down and including a map that leads the group to the treasure. Have another staff member deliver the documents to you during class.

Pirate Wear. After touring sites about pirates and the history of piracy, your students can create a new logo for the baseball team that takes its name from them -- the Pittsburgh Pirates. Turn the activity into a contest, and vote for your favorite new Pirate logo.

Blackbeard's Beaches. Take your students on a virtual tour of North Carolina's Outer Banks with the teaching master Blackbeard's Beaches. In this activity, students use information from Cape Hatteras National Seashore to answer a series of questions. They can find the answers in the seashore brochure, map, camping, and lighthouse relocation pages. Answers: 1. Wright Brothers National Memorial; 2. 11 miles; 3. State Highway 12; 4. Hatteras Inlet; 5. June to October; 6. Roanoke Island; 7. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse; 8. five; 9. Pamlico Sound; 10. Ocracoke Campground. Bonus: Ocracoke Inlet.


Treasure Island
Here you will find an on-line text of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2007 Education World

Originally published 10/18/1999
Last updated 10/02/2007