Pirates and Catapults: Science and Stories

By Awnali Mills

How I Became a PiratePirate BoySheep on a Ship

For this Science and Stories session, I was really excited about the topics: Pirates and Catapults.  I mean, how cool is that?  What little kids don’t love pirates?  And mechanically throwing things?  Total winner, right?

Then, I read the books that I had diligently gathered and was not terribly impressed.  I couldn’t get my hands on some that were used by other bloggers, so had to work with what I could get.  Some of them seemed like great stories, but a bit too long for storytime.  I was getting increasingly anxious about how this was going to go and was coming up with mental contingency plans should the storytime go south on me.

I mentally geared up and headed into battle storytime.  Imagine my surprise when it went Really Well!

I pulled a parrot puppet out of my magic bag who gave us a vocabulary lesson (cobbled together from other blogs):

Ahoy, me matey: Why hello there my friend!

Avast: STOP!

Shiver me timbers!: My goodness, that is surprising! Holy cow!

Aye-aye, cap’n!: Right away, captain!

Aye!: I agree with you.

Thar she blows!: a whale sighting

YAARRRR:  I’m angry and threatening! (can be said after anything)

It didn’t take the kids long to figure out that we were doing a storytime about pirates!

Our first book was one I was worried about.  I liked the story, but worried it was too long for storytime.  It was How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long.

How I Became a Pirate

It wasn’t too long.  The kids were mesmerized.  I think it helped that I was doing my best pirate voice (I have a REALLY good pirate voice) and had the kids join in as the crew where appropriate.

Then, we did a pirate song I got from Storytime Katie.

If You’re a Pirate and You Know It

If you’re a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish)

If you’re a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish)

If you’re a pirate and you know it, then you’ll hear the sea winds blowin’

If you’re a pirate and you know it, swab the deck (swish, swish)

Walk the plank (stomp and fall down)

Say “Aye, Aye!” (and salute)

Then I did a quick little flannel, Five Pirates on a Treasure Chest.

Five pirates on a treasure chest

One jumped off and four are left.

Four pirates on a treasure chest

One slid off and three are left.

Three pirates on a treasure chest

One tumbled down and two are left.

Two pirates on a treasure chest

One blew away and one is left.

One pirate on a treasure chest.

She climbed down and now
there are none.

No pirates on a treasure chest!

Yo ho ho and now it’s all MINE!

Pirate Boy

Our second book, Pirate Boy by Eve Bunting, was a last minute sub for another book I wasn’t crazy about.

Then, we did

The Pirate Sailor Song (sorry, not sure where I got this from…)

(March in place)

What shall we do with a pirate sailor,

What shall we do with a pirate sailor,

What shall we do with a pirate sailor,

Early in the morning?

(Jump up in the air)

Hoo-ray and up she rises,

Hoo-ray and up she rises,

Hoo-ray and up she rises,

Early in the morning!

Next up was the flannel The Pirate Wore a Red Patch, again from Storytime Katie.  I handed out all the patches and had the kids bring them up one by one each time we recited the rhyme.

Sheep on a Ship

Finally, I read Sheep on a Ship by Nancy Shaw.  It was a nice quick read, and I was surprised when one of the kids announced at the end, “That was a funny book!”

Then, I told the children that it was time for our science portion.  One of the little girls gasped and put her hand over her mouth and began bouncing in place.

I have to tell you, I LOVE that reaction!!!

I announced to the children that they were all scientists who had been captured by pirates.  The pirates wanted them to test out all of the catapults on the tables and decide which one was best for hitting targets so they could use them to get treasure.  They also had to determine which ammunition was best.  If they didn’t do what the pirates said, they would have to walk the plank!

I showed the children the catapults and ammo I had set up before storytime and covered with cloths.  Two tables were set up to shoot toward opposite walls (and away from other testers).  Each catapult was made from instructions I found at Spaghetti Box Kids.  I also threw in one that I had made for this program.  There were a total of eight, each with a cup of ammo next to it: tightly squashed balls of aluminum foil, pompoms, cotton balls, and Styrofoam peanuts.  Cups and old strawberry baskets were the targets.

I set the kids loose.  Such excitement!  Such fun!  They had the best time.

Pirates and Catapults 12Pirates and Catapults 1

Pirates and Catapults 14Pirates and Catapults 4

At the end of our time, I gathered them together and, by a vote of “Aar!”, they had to tell me which catapult was the best.  Then, they voted on the ammo.  I thanked them all for coming and doing such a great job.  As an afterthought I said, “And I have a bunch of pirate books on the table available for checkout.”  That book display is there for every storytime.  They frequently check the books out, and I always change it to reflect the theme of storytime.  This time there was an actual stampede!  The kids RUSHED the table, snatched almost every book, and left one little girl crying because she didn’t get the book she wanted.  I was dumbfounded.

Book Table Stampede!

Book Table Stampede!

When the book table is stampeded, you know it was a successful storytime.

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