Pirates capture children's imaginations because of their link with treasure and adventure. The language, such as "shiver me timbers," is evocative. The world of pirates includes secret maps, special coins and flags. A project on pirates lends itself to research and provides opportunities for creative activities, such as model-making and artwork.
Have the students research famous pirates throughout history, such as Blackbeard and Mary Read. In groups, students prepare presentations on one pirate and include information on the historical background. Older students could address the issue of modern-day piracy, such as the situation in Somalia, where pirates take hostages from ships and yachts. Encourage students to sift through the material to identify the drivers of piracy throughout different historical time periods.
Have students draw and paint "Wanted" posters either of a famous or fictional pirate, such as Long John Silver. The students write a short description at the bottom of their posters and include a monetary reward. Alternatively, students can draw a map of a treasure island and make up a series of clues for friends to find the buried treasure. Other ideas include designing an original pirate flag or a pirate coin, such as a Spanish doubloon. Making a model of a pirate ship is another option.
The theme of pirates is romantic and exciting to many children. Once students have learnt a little about the language and life of pirates they can write a short poem, such as a limerick, or story. Another idea is to have students write a short skit or drama. This could take the form of an interview where one student interviews a famous pirate or it could be two pirates discussing their booty. Have the students read their poems, stories and dramatic writing to the class.
Have students research some important facts about pirates and get them to make up a quiz in groups. This could be a simple quiz, such as asking students some "true/false" answers. For older students the quiz could be more complicated and include factual questions such as, "Why do pirates wear earrings?" The answer is because they hoped it would help improve their vision. Students could include their quiz at the end of the factual research project.