How to Build a Birch Bark Canoe

Mix art, engineering, and math all into one and help your students build a birch bark canoe with paper, scissors, hammer and nails.

Canoe birch came from the stands of paper birch in New Hampshire and Maine. The birch from these astounded the European trappers and colonizers of the New World. A single paddler could handle the birch bark canoe on the water. It could hold heavy loads but was light enough for a man to carry. Iroquois Indians made a canoe that could carry 50 men across the Great Lakes. The craft was durable and able to withstand water and could be reused after much abuse.

Kids will love reenacting a scene from the history of the Woodland Indians. To make your own, gather these materials for each canoe: a piece of manilla cardboard 6″x12″ that is prepared to look like birch-bark, paper that resembles birch bark, four cut bark strips Ã?½” x 12″, one yard of yellow-orange yarn, a big-eyed needle, paper clips, scissors, two toothpicks, hammer, nail, and a pounding surface.

Fold the manilla cardboard in half and round the ends with your scissors. Put your four cut bark strips out on the surface and cut a small 1/8″ notch every 2″. Be careful to not put any notches close to the top edge of the strip. With an old newspaper as a pounding surface, pound two nail holes every 1 Ã?½” inch along the canoe’s two rims and down the curved ends. Fasten each narrow strip with glue and sew them onto the top of the canoe rim. Use the notches to ease the strip with the curve of the canoe. Secure the strips with paper clips and glue until dry. Now you are ready to sew the ends. Pull the sides of the canoe apart and put in the two toothpicks 3″ apart.

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