Project Based Learning: Pirates


For the past five weeks the children have been beavering away at their chosen projects on the topic of pirates.  I have not helped them at all.  For once I have backed off entirely.  I didn’t check on their work, I didn’t make sure they were on the right path, I left them completely to their own devices.  And I am so pleased I did!  I am so impressed by what they have produced and the learning they have done completely independently.

T13’s Project: A Minecraft Pirate Game

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T13 had decided to make a board game, and mid first week, asked if he could change it to a Mine craft Pirate game, pirate ships included.  He thought he would make it a challenge type game, where you choose which famous pirate you wanted to play as.  The goal is to traverse the first pirate ship seeking for clues and collecting items you might need in the future, such as weapons.  These clues would lead to the next location and so on, until the final challenge has been completed and you become the proud owner of some fabulous treasure!  In order to show his knowledge he left signs around the ship as well as clues which labeled certain parts of the ship as well as naming weapons pirates would have used.  He included a plank to jump from for a bit of fun!

Here is the first round, aboard the first pirate ship.  I’m afraid my photos don’t do the conceptual part of the project justice but it gives you an idea of all he achieved.  The first picture shows the beginning of the game, the captain’s table and the sleeping quarters:

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T was surprised to find one of his chickens had got free and roamed into the sleeping quarters and he collected food and weapons:

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The chicken was beginning to bug him so he found an axe in some treasure chest and decided to kill it.  It immediately became a de-feathered, trussed and tied up version of itself and was stored with all his food!

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Once everything had been collected aboard the first ship the clues took the pirate to ‘Volcano Island’ which was constantly erupting, yet one could get into the interior if one needed to.  Here he collected his instructions on how to win the treasure and a map for him to follow:

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He had a tiny sail boat to sail to the island and then away to the second boat.  This is his view back onto the first pirate ship:

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I had been keeping up fairly well until this point.  The second ship was docked in a ship station and from here on out I became a little confused.  It seemed to make perfect sense to his sisters, with even his six year old sister understanding, but alas, I think I would maybe have lost the game at this point:

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He did a great job marking everything, up the mast:

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Here is the second pirate ship’s kitchen, sleeping quarters, captain’s quarters and the huge skull and cross bones flag:

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Finally he found the ship’s rudder and axed it preventing any future journeys.  This apparently was the purpose of the whole game and he then got his hands on some lovely treasure.

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I was incredibly impressed by the amount of thought which had gone in to this project.  He had displayed his knowledge for all things pirate, had designed a game which had clear rules and goals with a clear prize at the end.  And he had done it completely by himself.

L12’s Project: A Pirate Memorabilia Pack

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Project based learning has always suited L down to the ground.  Creative by nature she just loves dreaming things up in her mind and seeing them brought to life by her very own hands.  Every project she has done has been a success and this was no exception.  She had chosen to make a Pirate Memorabilia pack based on the World war Memorabilia packs you can buy.  Here she is with her designed pack layed out on her very own treasure chest we keep in the back garden for occasions such as these (!):

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As you can see, she made a book, a newspaper, gold coins and jewels, a full dress up set, a treasure map and sword:

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She took great delight in presenting all of her work and her siblings took great delight in reading it all:

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She designed and filled her own pirate newspaper which she called ‘Ahoy’.  She also made a pirate’s handbook which contained all sorts of information for the budding pirate, including the pirate rules which all pirates were supposed to live by:

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I know she worked incredibly hard on this project and was disappointed to run out of time, not having completed all the work she had thought she would.  I still felt what she did produce was ample and was very well thought out and had a huge amount of pirate information in, far more than her brother and sister.  I think she did an amazing job!

C12 Project: Reader’s Theatre Original Play

C loves to write and really is a very imaginative writer but she has been slow to warm to PBL, with her first project requiring much more than she had first thought.  Her next project she also struggled to finish, but her last one which was creating a Chaucer themed newspaper was a huge success.  It used her strength of writing and she managed to finish it with ease and produced some great quality work.  At last she had found success.  She decided to stick to what she knew and did well and wrote a lovely play about pirates (click if you would like to down load a copy of it).  She did run out of time and so the ending is rushed and she struggled a little bit with tenses but everyone thoroughly enjoyed reading through it, and acting as they read.

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Reader’s theatre is basically acting without purposeful props, costumes or sets.  The players read and act as they read.  It is huge fun, more so if you throw yourself into it with gusto…..and you know us…..

Bully, the father pirate, (Gary) has just spotted Pirate Thomas (played by T13) on his ship the Black Death.  His daughter, who seems to have somewhat of a crush on him, spots him also:

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Father and daughter row about Thomas, and Bully gets very angry and pumps his fist!

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The next morning his younger daughter, Charlotte (played by A6) wakes him to tell him her older sister is missing.  Bully spots his daughter Anne (played by L12) mounting Thomas’ boat.  He and his wife, Mary, (played by C12) argue over who abandoned who when Anne was little and decide to track Anne down:

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Meanwhile in a peculiar turn of events, Anne manages to capture Thomas’ ship and holds him prisoner, threatening to take over as captain!

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Bully and Mary climb aboard the ship with their younger daughter and a princess (?).  Anne proceeds to rip her father to pieces claiming he abandoned her when she was three.  L12 enjoyed this a little too much! Reader's theatre7

The play ends as it is revealed Thomas is actually Bully’s son and therefore Anne’s brother (which was why he was so against them in the first place).  Mother and son are reunited.  Thomas then recognised the princess (played by B4) and asks her to also become a member of the family:

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Apart from the princess ending (where on earth did she come from??), I was so pleased by C12’s first attempt at play writing.  It flowed well and was interesting and worked really well as a reader’s theatre play.  I was pleased to see this worked for the whole family as we will be doing lots of these sorts of activities with Shakespeare next term.

All in all, a successful foray into project work 🙂


  1. I’m on my phone so I can’t ask or express myself as freely as I want. I really enjoy your home school but I really like the pbl you do and I have some questions. Please can I email you? I understand if you’d prefer not but I’d be grateful for any help you can give me.

    1. That’s what I love about project based learning – the creativity of each project and how much it reflects the individual child.

      1. So, I showed my kids this post and now they all great plans for our next movie night. Princess is very intrigued by the pirate pack and is planning on making stuff for The Jungle Book along the same lines.

  2. Wow! Your children did a fabulous job with their individual projects. I can see so much effort put into each one. You must be very pleased with the outcome. Please pass on my congratulations to T, L, and C. Well done. I am looking forward to seeing what you have planned for Shakespeare. I am sure it will be brilliant!
    I hope you are having a wonderful week. We are “enjoying” (NOT) very HOT weather, so we are staying indoors much of the time.
    Hugs to you.:))

    1. Thank you so much Donna.
      We have had horrible temperatures for us – up in the 30’s which is usually unheard of. We have no air conditioning and it was so hot outside it became stiffling inside as well. And the children can’t sleep in the heat so we’ve a houseful of testy children, oh and a testy father and a testy mother….

  3. Well done guys. You all have great imaginations and that shows in this work. I am really proud you have worked so hard on these. I think we need to write a play which includes mummy……….she would be great at reader theatre.. Lol

  4. I loved all the projects, even all the work you put in to describing them. The readers theater is inspired! But the minecraft game reminds me of the LEGO video games we play here. And who doesn’t like old time newspapers? It’s one of my favorite assignments to give! These were really impressive projects!

  5. I love all of the projects. They are wonderful. My son is going to love studying your son’s game. He loves minecraft. The play sounds great and the pictures are delightful. What a great treasure box. Oh my, they are all so creative.
    Blessings, Dawn

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