Museum Classroom: Maritime Flag Journey

Lesson: Maritime Flag Journey
Topic: The Welland Canal
Sub-Topic: The history of the Welland Canal and community overtime
Grade: 4-8

Activity: Maritime Flag Activity

Materials Required:

  • Pencil
  • Eraser
  • Masking Tape

Materials Provided:

  • Maritime Flag Flash Cards
  • Maritime Flag Meaning Chart
  • Decoding Maritime Flags worksheet

Pre-Lesson Activity: Discussion of Time
With a partner or family member, put yourselves in order based on birthday or height or write down your family members based on these specifications. If working with a group, you cannot speak to each other in order to communicate. Once you have completed the task, discuss the kinds of strategies you used in order to communicate. What worked best? What was the biggest challenge? How do we use non-verbal communication every day? How do we know what another person is trying to communicate based on gestures, hand-signs or body language?

Ships on the Welland Canal have a way of communicating without speaking as well. They use internationally recognized flags. Each flag represents a number, letter and/or special meaning. Another ship can communicate routes, directions, issues on board, or other important messages to any ships around them by flying specific flags.

This activity will work best with a partner or small group. Print the Martime Flags Flash Cards (you may need extra copies of each flag) and copies of the Maritime Flag Meaning Chart. In addition, print off the Decoding Maritime Flags worksheet and cut out each of the Martime Flag words (i.e., corn, grain, etc.) with their flags. Fold up each of the Maritime flag words and place into a bucket or bowl. Each partner/group will draw one of the Maritime flag words.

With your partner or group, you must create a dramatic skit of a maritime journey, with a plot shaped around the meaning of the flags word you drew. During the skit, you will use the flags to communicate the message to the other groups or partner without stating the meaning. At the end of the skit, the rest the other groups or partner must decode the flags message that was used in the presenting group’s skit.

Note: if you do not have access to a printer, STCM recommend the following fun alternative below.

Materials required:
– 36 pieces of blank paper
– blue construction paper or marker
– red construction paper or marker
– yellow construction paper or marker
– black construction paper or marker
– scissors
– glue

Download the International Maritime Flags meaning chart and create your very own set of International Maritime Flags by either drawing the flags on the blank pieces of paper or cutting on the shapes on construction paper and gluing them onto the blank sheets of paper.

Download the International Maritime Flag decoding worksheet and simply write the words out on post-it notes or small pieces of paper. Fold up each of the Maritime flag words and place into a bucket or bowl. Each partner/group will draw one of the Maritime flag words. Look at the Maritime Flag decoding worksheet to see which flags accompany your Maritime word.

With your partner or group, continue the steps to create a dramatic skit using your own set of International Maritime Flags cards.

Wrap-up Discussion
With your partner or groups, discuss the challenges the you found in communicating your message with the other groups or your partner. What challenges did the groups who were watching have in understanding the skits? What are the benefits of using non-verbal communication on a ship?  

With a partner or group, create a skit composed entirely of maritime flags to communicate. Write a journal entry on your experience using non-verbal communication and the benefits and challenges you encountered.

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