Ship Shape

MATH/ART – Students will learn to identify shapes using steamship references.

This lesson was written by Education Advisory Council Member Brigit Baumgartner.


Using the Ship Shape lesson, students will demonstrate their understanding of basic shapes by using several cut out shapes including trapezoids, half circles, circles, squares, and rectangles, gluing them to a piece of paper in the shape of a ship and discussing their design using the correct shape names with 100% accuracy.

Queen Elizabeth in 1968.
Cunard Line’s R. M. S. QUEEN ELIZABETH on her final departure from New York on October 30, 1968. Her career had spanned twenty-eight years of service, both in war and peace. She was in her time the world’s largest liner at 83,673 gross tons. Her length was 1,031 feet. With her sister QUEEN MARY she provided the weekly express service for Cunard. Edward O. Clark Collections, SSHSA Archives.

Materials Needed for Ship Shape Lesson: 

  • Images of ships 
  • Blank paper (one for each student)
  • Cut out shapes of various color construction paper
  • Glue sticks 
Example of a finished product.


Poster featuring two steamships.
  1. Look at the pictures of the ships on this page or browse the Steamship Historical Society of America’s online catalogue.
  2. Discuss the basic shapes with your students.
    1. What shapes do you see? 
    2. How many of each shape do you see? 
    3. What shapes are where? 

Ship Shape Activity:

  1. Explain to your students that they will design their own ship using cut-out shapes. (You may prepare the shapes by cutting them out of construction paper before the lesson, or allow the students to cut out the shapes independently). 
  2. Review the shapes with your students. 
  3. Hand each student a piece of paper and ask them to state how they plan on constructing a ship using the cut-out shapes. 
    1. What shapes will you put where? 
    2. What will your finished ship look like? 
    3. How many of each shape do you plan on using? 
  4. Allow students to construct their ships by gluing the cut-out shapes to the paper. Keep the images of ships used in the opening of the lesson visible for students to use as inspiration. 
Two ships at dock.
P&O liner FLORIDA at Nassau with anchor down, pivoting for docking at Prince George Dock. BAHAMA STAR is at right. November, 16, 1960. Braun Brothers Collection, SSHSA Archives.


  1. Have each student present their ship to the class. 
    1. Tell me more about the ship that you made? 
    2. What shapes did you use? 
    3. Does it look similar to any of the ships we looked at in the beginning of the lesson? 
pilot house
Pilot house for steam ferry PENN-JERSEY. Edward O. Clark Collections, SSHSA Archives.


  1. Different ships have different funnel designs. Look at some of the ships’ funnels from the beginning of the lesson and ask your students to add to their ship design by creating their own unique funnel. 

Additional Resources:

For more lessons and activities for younger students, click here.

Education Standards:


Describe objects in the environment using names of shapes, and describe the relative positions of these objects using terms such as above, below, beside, in front, and next to.