The Canoe Project at Ernest Morrow School

Jun. 16, 2020

​The canoe project was designed as an Indigenous Education initiative to honour traditional knowledge and create authentic interdisciplinary connections that include learning opportunities in Science, Math and Humanities while also embracing fundamentals in CTF and Art. In using the metaphor of the Canoe, a flexible space for learning was established for Ernest Morrow students that recognized the traditional pedagogy of hands-on learning, holistic disciplinary connections, and making connections between land (water) based teachings. The project was funded through a grant provided by the Calgary Foundation.

The making of a Canoe provides students with insight into design principles and the recognition of the knowledge systems of Indigenous cultures. From the grand dugout Canoes of the Tsimshian and Haida to the Moose Hide boats of the Kaska Dena to the classic canoes of the Cree and Mi’kmaq, different Canoes were designed, built and honed for their efficiency throughout Canada. The designs and the traditions for the building of the canoe are as vast, diverse, and complex as the indigenous cultures themselves. The design has passed the test of time and has proven to be truly brilliant and enduring. As such, the tradition of building a canoe honors teamwork, healthy lifestyle, developing hand skills, recognizing family heritage, and the stories embedded in the deep histories of the waterways of Alberta and Canada. The Canoe project also opened up conversations about our collective journey through reconciliation in both learning and teaching. In some ways, the modern Canoe is a testament to the incredible knowledge systems born in the Indigenous Canadian Landscapes while also honoring the joining and hybridity of indigenous-settler knowledge.

With the cancellation of in-school classes due to Covid-19, the staff at Ernest Morrow School wanted to continue to recognize the contribution of students and the intent and meaning of this project to the students and school community. The Canoe Project continued through a variety of digital means including video conferencing with students and staff from a home garage and a series of videos showing the process of the build. The decision to continue with the project came from a deep recognition that our learning community does not back away from adversity or opportunities to model resilience to our students. Like travelling downstream along a river, we acknowledged the circumstances created from external realities, improvised our way through, and just kept going.

Watch | Canoe Project Overview