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Paddle-down-the-River - Lesson Plan
In Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling Clancy Holling, an Indian boy made a tiny wood carving of a figure of an Indian seated in a canoe. In the bottom of the canoe he carved these words,
PLEASE PUT ME BACK IN WATER I AM PADDLE TO THE SEA
He placed his "Paddle Person" into the melting snow in the Nipigon country north of the Great Lakes. The melting snow carried the canoe down the river, into the Great Lakes, down the St. Lawrence River and to the Atlantic Ocean with many adventures along the way. Paddle-to-the-Sea provides many lessons about the Great Lakes: their ecology, the industries dependant upon them and the lifeways of the people on their shores.
Many Michigan communities were established near rivers that-in a smaller way-have their own ecology and have influenced the industries, recreation and lives the the people who live on or near them. These rivers may have their headwaters in a lake, a spring or a waterfall. They may empty into one of the Great Lakes or another body of water. In this activity students build on their familiarity with Paddle-to-the-Sea to investigate a river near their town by finding out, "What if I carved a 'Paddle-down-the-River' and floated it down our river?" "Where would I start it (headwaters)?" "What would it encounter in its travels (historically and/or today)?" "Where would it end its journey (outlet)?"
- Students will be able to describe describe a local waterway including its location, source and outlet.
- Students will be able to list industries, types of recreation and communities related to the river.
- Students will be able to anticipate future threats to the river.
Michigan Social Studies Curriculum Content Standards
This lesson presents an opportunity to address, in part, these standards:
- SOC.II.1 All students will describe, compare, and explain the locations and characteristics of places, cultures, and settlements.
- SOC.II.3 All students will describe, compare, and explain the locations and characteristics of economic activities, trade, political activities, migration, information flow, and the interrelationships among them.
- SOC.II.4 All students will describe and compare characteristics of ecosystems, states, regions, countries, major world regions, and patterns and explain the processes that created them.
- Paddle-to-the-Sea (book, audio, and/or VHS). The film may be available from the school media center or a local library.
- Maps with rivers indicated and named. A county or township map will best illustrate the river's path near your community. A state map may be necessary to find the river's headwaters and outlet.
- Handout with table for responses to research questions.
- Read Paddle-to-the-Sea with the class and/or watch the film made from the book. Discuss the story and expand the lesson with one of the many activities available in print or on the Web. (Type "paddle-to-the-sea lesson"-without quotes-into a Web search engine to find lists of available resources.)
- Select a nearby river as the subject of your Paddle-to-the-Lake research. Use maps and interview parents or other persons in the community (boat store or rental shop owners, people how fish or sell gear) to locate the headwaters, path and outlet of the river and your community's location in relationship to the river.
- Distribute the handout. Review the types of information needed (questions 1-11), then give students time to locate information about the river (through research and interviews) and fill in the table. Plan a class trip to the river if possible.
- Where does the river begin (its headwaters)?
- Where does the river end (its outlet)? Into what other body of water does it empty?
- How long is the river (in miles)?
- Is this river a mainstream or a tributary?
- Where does the river flow-through or near which counties and towns?
- How do people use the river for recreation in all seasons (e.g., swim, fish, canoe, sail, motorboat, water ski)?
- Name one business or industry from Michigan's early years that depended on this river (e.g., fur trade, sawmill, flour mill, shipping).
- Name a current business or industry that depends on the river (e.g., power plant, boat sales or rental, restaurant advertising a view of the river for diners).
- What kinds of fish, birds and other animals live in or near the river?
- Is this river clean or polluted? How do you know?
- What can people do to keep this river clean and a good source of water for the future?
- Possible culminating activities:
- Prepare a map of the river that shows the communities, industries and recreation along it.
- Prepare posters with drawings and photos about the river.
- Have students report their research orally to other classes.
Questions for Discussion or Research
- What is the latest news about your river? Collect newspaper articles about the river and events along it. Share them and post them on a classroom bulletin board.
- Compare your river to another in the same area or a different geographic location with a different climate.
At the Museum
- See the Au Sable river boat in the Lakes and Land gallery. Find out the characteristics of the Au Sable River that made this uniquely shaped boat useful on the river.
- Visit the sawmill in the Lumbering in Michigan gallery to see the map of Michigan's rivers used to float logs to sawmills.
- Creek: a natural stream of water normally smaller than, but often feeding water into a larger river or lake; also, brook
- Groundwater: water under the earth's surface that supplies wells and springs
- Headwaters: the source and upper area of a stream
- Mainstream: a major river fed by smaller streams (tributaries)
- Outlet: the lower end of a waterway where its water flows into a lake or sea
- River: a natural surface stream of water of considerable volume and permanent or seasonal flow
- Source: the place where a stream of water begins
- Stream: a body of running water flowing in a channel on or below the surface of the ground or in a glacier
- Tributary: a stream, creek, brook or smaller river that feeds water into a larger river. For example, the Lookingglass and Thornapple rivers are tributaries of the Grand River.
- Watershed: the region around a stream that forms its drainage basin; area from which a river [and any tributaries] obtain its water
- Wetland land with a lot of moisture in its soil, such as a swamp, marsh or bog
- Holling, Holling Clancy. Paddle-to-the-Sea. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969; Perfection Learning Prebound, 1993.
(Film on VHS: National Film Board of Canada; audio cassette and audio CD: Audio Bookshelf; Web audio download: Audible.com; book: LOC call no. PS 3515 .O44 P3)
- Dennis, Jerry, and Craig Date. Canoeing Michigan Rivers: A Comprehensive Guide to 45 Rivers (revised ed.). Friede Publications, 2001.
- Lists, maps and information for some Michigan rivers
- Major Rivers in Michigan
- Michigan River Network
- Michigan's Natural Rivers Program, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment
- Michigan's Water, Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment
- Rivers of Michigan, National Rivers web site
Contact the Michigan Historical Museum.