Volunteer Donates William Penn’s World Activity

  • May 23, 2024
  • Posted By: Pennsbury Manor

A poster displaying the parts of a merchantman ship.

This spring, Pennsbury Manor volunteer Doug Lehnen donated a field trip activity based on his research on the Welcome, the ship that carried William Penn and some of the first settlers to Pennsylvania across the Atlantic Ocean in 1682. Doug wanted students to understand the conditions passengers withstood during the three-month voyage from Europe.


First, he dedicated 100 hours of primary source research to find out who was on board and what life was like aboard the Welcome. According to his research, personal space aboard the ship was approximately 7 feet long, 5 feet high, and 2 feet wide. Nearly one-third of all the ship’s passengers died of smallpox due to the close quarters.
“It was a big gamble to come to the colonies,” Doug said. “No one knew if they were going to make it or not.”
Next, Doug replaced the old panels in the boathouse with new artwork displaying his research. He designed everything except for the model of a merchant ship, which he found online. He then refurbished the panels’ old oak frames to match the wood that the ship would have been made from.
Going back to his days as a teacher, Doug always tried to find creative ways to get the subject matter across.
In keeping with this philosophy, he made Velcro labels that students could match to the parts of the ship. He also built a PVC pipe model of the cabin space each passenger had, so students could stand inside and put themselves in the passengers’ shoes.
“I wanted the students to experience things, not just read about them or talk about them. Not just learning about history, but living it.,” Doug explained.
Doug is happy to see the students experience the activity during William Penn’s World programs. The next enhancement he has planned is to display a trunk containing passengers’ personal effects on top of wooden crates (Doug offered to build the crates).
When asked what motivates him to continue learning, he replied, “Find something of interest. Do your research. Keep growing.”
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