Voyages in a Bottle

Voyages in a Bottle lesson plan

Create a fitting tribute to explorers of the high seas. Design tiny sailing ships in a recycled plastic bottle.

  • 1.

    Imagine the bravery needed to be an explorer! Think about getting in a ship and heading where no one else has gone. Explorers often brought misery to the indigenous people they came upon and their exploits changed the course of history. Learn more about the consequences of their journeys.

  • 2.

    Early sailing ships were incredible monuments to the fine art of boat building. Since the 17th century, craftspeople have recreated models of these splendid ships in miniature, building them so they fit inside glass bottles (even a light bulb). Find out how model builders work inside such small spaces. Is it with very long tweezers?

  • 3.

    Make ships’ hulls. With the help of an adult, cut jumbo craft sticks into ship hulls with a sharp knife (one for each boat, such as the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria). Label the ship and add decorative flourishes with Crayola Fine Line Markers.

  • 4.

    Create sails. Cut out tiny paper sails with Crayola Scissors. Color the sails with Crayola Twistables Colored Pencils. Spike these on the ends of wooden toothpicks. Attach the toothpicks to the back of the ship with Crayola School Glue. Air-dry the glue.

  • 5.

    Prepare a base. Attach each sailing ship to a small square of wood. Color the base to blend in with the waves. Glue crinkled crepe paper under and around the base to make waves. Air-dry the glue.

  • 6.

    Assemble your voyage. Ask an adult to cut a three-sided opening in the bottom of a plastic bottle, leaving one short end uncut and attached. Fold out the plastic bottle flap and slip your ship inside. Glue the ship to the bottle and glue the flap closed.

  • 7.

    Label your explorers. Cut a posterboard rectangle. Fold one end of it around a ruler three times and unfold. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise. With Crayola Markers, label both pieces on one side with the name of your explorer. Fold both pieces into up


  • • Students internalize the experiences of sailing explorers during the "Age of Discovery." </P>
  • • Students uncover the method for easily building a ship in a bottle. </P>
  • • Students fabricate a 3-D model of the ship(s) used on an exploratory sailing voyage and display it in a plastic bottle. </P>


  • • Small groups pretend to be sailors on an explorer’s ship. Keep a daily travel journal with sketches. </P>
  • • Draw a map of the world your explorers believed in, in the style of the time period. Compare it to a new map. </P>
  • • Invite a model builder to share the craft and explain the materials and tools. </P>
  • • Create similar scenes in bottles using Crayola Model Magic® as the primary modeling compound. Design the "sky" that would have helped the sailors chart their courses with Crayola Color Explosion™. </P>
  • • Assessment: Test students’ grasp of the historic worldview of these travelers. Ask students to write or present to the group a description of their explorers, voyages, and consequences of their "discoveries." </P>