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Environmental Impact of Canoes -- Lesson Plans and Information

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Earth and Space Sciences +2 Age Levels Primary (5 to 8 years old), Elementary (9 to 12 years old), Middle School (13 to 15 years old), High School (16 to 18 years old)

Look through the photographs. Spend a few minutes looking at each one, then pick three photos and consider the following questions: What are the common elements of the photos? During what time period do you think the photos were taken? In what part of the world were the photos taken? How are they similar? Different? You will record your observations on the quiz at the end of the photograph section.

As you investigate the artifacts, images, and readings in this collection, consider how the environment has been impacted by the development of canoes/boats? How were animals (birds, mammals, reptiles) affected by the launching of canoes/boats? How is the land affected by canoes/boats?


By using the pictures, students will be able for how the first canoe development may have affected the environment; students will construct an explanation of how the environment has since been impacted. They will then work to design solutions for ways of making less of an impact to the environment based on factors that can lead to the disruption of the protected waterways.

Meaning of Canoe:

The word 'canoe' originated from the word 'kenu' - meaning dugout. These seagoing boats were used by the Carib Indians of the Caribbean islands, and were made of large tree trunks which were shaped and hollowed, and were strong enough to travel between the islands.


Students will be able to:

1. Activate students’ prior knowledge. Tell students that they will learn about human-related impacts that threaten the environment.

2. Use a model to explore how the use of canoes effects the environment.

3. Construct explanations and design solutions for impacts of boating on healthy waterways.

4. Identify ways individuals can influence impacts of the boating industry.

Essential Questions:

1. What are the advantages and disadvantages of the development of the boating issues based on the use of the canoe?

2. How do we assess the environmental, social, cultural, and economic benefits and drawbacks of various solutions to a problem?

3. How do we ultimately decide what solution is the 'best'?

4. What are the major concerns of using the waterways for leisure activities and for business?


- Computer lab with one computer for every student (computers should have Internet access) and  the equipment to project onto a screen or white board

- One pair of audio headphones for each student

- Projector

- Access to the Learning Lab Collections

Teacher Prep:

- Review articles that emphasize the impact of environmental damage do to boating website has an activity that will help the students understand the  building of the canoe






The Chief's Canoe

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Canoe Bay Crab Cages

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Canoes at the harbour, Accra, Ghana. [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Dugout Canoe with Kuna Person of Panama, STRI

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Men in a canoe

National Anthropological Archives


National Anthropological Archives

Canoes with Sails on Repulse Bay

Smithsonian Archives - History Div

Birchbark Canoe 1882

National Anthropological Archives

Kisangani [print]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Marshallese Outrigger Sailing Canoe 1970

National Anthropological Archives

Detail of Palm Outrigger Canoe 1970

National Anthropological Archives

Making of a Skin Boat

Postcard from the Dr. Stephen Loring Collection of Inuit Skin Boats

Prow of Wooden Canoe 1970

National Anthropological Archives

Canoe about to leave, Abayong beach, Nigeria. [slide]

Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives

Earl's Canoe: A Traditional Ojibwe Craft

SI Center for Learning and Digital Access