On a recent Sunday afternoon, Stevenson’s Public History Program engaged in experiential learning aboard the pirate boat FEARLESS in Baltimore Harbor. Going along on the cruise were 14 PHIST majors, 3 faculty, 3 alums, and 4 invited guests from local high schools. The objective of the experience was for our majors to learn about how young children engage in history versus adults. In a setting like a pirate boat with costumed crew members, youngsters easily slide into a version of history that relies on fantasy. As adults we rely on facts and evidence. Until public historians learn to bridge that gap, we run the risk of stifling children’s pursuit of history. Learning how to bridge that divide was the purpose of the adventure.

Caption: Stevenson PHIST majors and guests gather before getting aboard the boat.

During this experience the pirate crew taught our majors about the activities that seem to bring the greatest enjoyment to children, help to focus their attention, and provide opportunities for learning. Stevenson’s PHIST faculty members provided talks along the way about the real pirates of the Chesapeake, the history of Federal Hill, and Baltimore’s defense against the British in September 1814.

Caption: A crew member applies a temporary tattoo to a PHIST major. In this instance the message on the crew member’s hat to “Drink More Rum” was disregarded. Caption: PHIST alum Zane Wetzel (’18), appropriately dressed, prepares to seize control of the helm. “Steady on, helmsman. Let’s keep to a straight course!!!” Caption: Kind of a piratical “time out.” Here we discuss how best to settle one’s “pirate booty” on the deck. Caption: Pirates and majors alike share in the “Pirate Dance.” March in place, swab the deck, pull on the yards, shake your dinghy. Clearly some are better at it than others. Caption: Our pirate expert, Dr. Jamie Goodall, does an Errol Flynn version of Captain Blood while telling us about the true history of pirates ion the Chesapeake. The Urban Pirates of Baltimore hosted our adventure. Many thanks to the crew of the good ship FEARLESS, her captain, and our cherished guests.