Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Measuring Up on the Mayflower

Susan Mercer


Students use a meter tape to compare the length of the Mayflower to a basketball court and make homemade butter for crackers. Afterwards, all the students sit inside the makeshift Mayflower's dimensions and enjoy their Pilgrim butter.


The student knows appropriate standard tools for measuring linear dimensions, weight, capacity, and temperature.


-THANKSGIVING DAY by Gail Gibbons, 1983 Holiday House.
-5 Meter tapes (beg the P.E. department)
-Chart paper and marker
-5 Butter Recipes (1 per group, see attachment for recipe)
-5 Packs of Colored Sidewalk Chalk
-Large box of Wheat Crackers.
-5 Pints of heavy cream
-5 Small containers of salt (a pinch in each)
-5 Plastic peanut butter jars with lids
-5 Plastic knives
-Paper plates
-Class set of Compare It To Me Quiz (see associated file)


1. Gather all materials and separate into appropriate number of groups for your classroom.
2. Duplicate one copy of the Comparing It To Me Quiz for each student. (See associated file)


Note: This lesson only addresses linear measurement.

1. Review the different types of standard and nonstandard units and tools used for measurement (i.e. inches, feet, yards, centimeters, rulers, yardsticks, meters and metersticks) with the students by having them make a list of real world objects that could be measured with each unit or tool listed above. This can been done as a whole group activity recording the class responses on chart paper. Make sure students understand that they wouldn't use centimeters to measure a football field or use a yardstick to measure an earthworm.

2. Read the book THANKSGIVING DAY by Gail Gibbons and discuss with the students the ship that the pilgrims came to America on. Review the following facts about the Mayflower on chart paper:
a. The Mayflower was about 90 feet long and 25 feet wide. (Ask what else might be about 90 feet long and list all answers.)
b. There were 102 pilgrims and 20 to 30 crew members on board. (Ask where else students might find 120-130 people together and list all answers.)
c. It took the pilgrims 66 days to travel from England to America. (Ask students what else might take 66 days from start to finish and list all answers.)
d. The Mayflower had two decks but very little space for its passengers. (Ask students where else they might find two levels or floors.)
e. Ask students where the food for the 66 days for all the people on the Mayflower came from. (Help students to see that food had to be prepared from scratch or had been preserved-salted or dried-prior to beginning the voyage. Ask students for some types of food they might have had on the Mayflower.)

3. Next tell the class that they are going to be divided up into groups to measure on the basketball court the length and width of the Mayflower.

4. Ask the students which unit of measurement should be used to measure something the size of the Mayflower. Allow students to answer. Divide them into groups and have one student in each group record the Mayflower measurements. Circulate to make sure each group has the correct figures.

5. Demonstrate to all students how to use the meter tape, and mark it with the chalk.

6. Assign groups and give members of the group the following jobs.
a. one student measures the distance with the meter tape.
b. one student marks the distances off with the sidewalk chalk.
c. have one student start making the homemade butter.
d. one student prepares the paper plates and crackers. All students can help with the shaking of the butter once their assigned duties are completed and then take turns doing the measurement as a check for accuracy and practice.

7. Students should procede to the court and begin measuring. Don't forget to have some students take the supplies needed. (plates, crackers, etc.) If you’d like, invite other students on your grade level to act as pilgrims and crew. It would be helpful if you could mimic the number of crew and passengers on the ship (122-132).

8. Ask all students to seat themselves in the middle of one of the ship outlines. Have students eat their homemade butter spread on the crackers and dicuss some difficulties that the pilgrims had to face aboard the Mayflower.

9. Follow up the measuring of the Mayflower by referring back to the lists made when you asked the questions in #2. Allow students to change their answers and guide students so that all lists are accurate. Reinforce the idea of using appropriate tools to measure. Solicit examples of what tools would be used to measure the length of boards, nails, football fields, hallways, tables, bunk beds, paper clips, and jar heights.


Circulate and assist students in each group with accurate measurements of their makeshift Mayflowers. Note any that have difficulty. The students' chalk measurement should be measured for accuracy and corrected if needed. After all discussions, students return to class and take the quiz in the associated file. Students who cannot determine the correct tool for measuring will need additional guidance and practice.


This lesson can be done at the end of a study on Pilgrims and/or measurement. The students should have prior knowledge of measuring objects using standard and nonstandard methods.

Web Links

This site is a great one to use in giving background to the children concerning the voyage.
A Voyage on the Mayflower

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