Grade Five Thematic Unit Part 2: Tribal Affiliations and Water Transportation

Tribal Affiliations and Water Transportation

Subject(s): Social Studies/ Creative Writing/ Art

Topic: Canadian Aboriginal Water Transportation

Time Frame: Three lessons of 45 minutes or 90-135 minutes.


  1. Students will be able to identify the various First Peoples watercrafts used in Canada.
  2. Students will be able to write an adventure story as a group about one of the First People’s watercrafts.
  3. Students will be able to construct models or replicas of watercrafts.

Methodology: Teacher Lecture, Creative writing, Model construction, hands on experiential learning.


  • Pictures of Aboriginal watercrafts
  • Information sheet on Aboriginal watercrafts
  • Wood, hide, leather, birch bark, popsicle sticks, thin bendable sticks

Space Requirements: Classroom

Background Information:


Watercrafts have long played a vital role in the cultures of most First Peoples in Canada. Indian and Inuit boat builders have produced many varieties of wooden dugout, bark canoe and skin boat, each designed for specific purposes and particular conditions. This selection of First Peoples watercraft from the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s collections highlights the creativity and skill of Indian and Inuit boat builders.

Of all archaic watercraft, the canoe and the kayak share the distinction of having survived in modern form all over the world. Many Indian and Inuit inventions were adopted by European immigrants to North America. Dugout canoes were used by the early traders in western North America and birch bark canoes of Algonquian origin were used by white men in the north. Indeed, the early birch bark canoes were the prototypes for boats made today of canvas or fiberglass. Canvas and fiberglass models of the Inuit kayak are also being made both for functional use and for sport.


Social Studies

  1. Review the background information on Aboriginal watercrafts. If possible, provide pictures of these watercrafts and have them placed on an overhead projector. Ask the students to view the construction of these devices. Ask them to brainstorm what would be needed in order to construct such an item. Do these brainstorm activities for each of the watercrafts and write their thoughts on chart paper. Ask students to take jot notes about the information you have provided them. (15 Minutes).
  2. Divide students into groups of four or five and have them research each of the watercrafts: Canoes, Dug Out Canoes, Umiak, Kayak and York Factory Boats. Ensure that students have a clear idea about the use and the construction of their assigned watercraft. Students will research in the library and use the Internet to learn about Aboriginal watercrafts. (20 Minutes). Students will present their findings in an oral report. (10 Minutes).

Creative Writing

  1. Keep the students in their group formations but now divide them into dyads or triads and have them write and draw a storyboard about their assigned Aboriginal watercraft. This is a cooperative writing project where it would be ideal to pair stronger writers with imaginative counterparts. This project would begin with the dyad or triad brainstorming ideas for their story and how it could relate back to the map mural they have constructed within their classroom. It would also be good to write from a historical perspective using information they have gathered since the beginning of the unit. (10 minutes).
  2. After students have brainstormed for awhile, ask them to dialogue for these stories. Have students draw and write out on rough paper what the pictures and story line will look like. (10 minutes). Once they have been given teacher’s approval for their story they may begin. Sturdy paper should be used. (20 Minutes). Optional: After the students have written and illustrated their creative writing project laminate the front and back covers. Ensure that author and illustrator are written on the front cover. Using a sewing machine sew the book together, place the book in the library under the student author section. Students may choose to read their student authored books to a reading buddy in a lower grade.
  3. . They could begin with one of the following story starters: One day I was walking in the stream and the water began flowing very fast. I was caught up in a wave. Next thing I knew I was back in time and I saw a family in their canoe… or Kayaks are quick and fast but do you know who invented a Kayak? It was…

Creative Arts

  1. After viewing various watercrafts students will construct a water craft of their own. In order to construct models or replicas of watercraft, it is important that students have a clear understanding of how the craft was built and what traditional materials were used. Students may wish to research more about their watercraft on the Internet or at the library. (10 minutes).
  2. Craft Materials you may need: Wood, hide, leather, birch bark, popsicle sticks, thin bendable sticks
  3. Encourage your students to be creative; you may want to display the final items on the mural of Canadian waterways.

Evaluation: At the end of this unit is a suggested evaluation form for teachers to adapt to fit the needs of their students.