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SFDCI Canoe Project
Smiths Falls DCI Students Discover Art of Birchbark Canoe Making
Posted on 10/05/2018
Chuck Commanda and wife Janet build birchbark canoe

October 5, 2018 (Smiths Falls, ON) Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute students are learning about traditional birchbark canoe making, while discovering Indigenous culture through lessons in English, mathematics and the arts. 

Algonquin Craftsman Chuck Commanda is building a canoe in the foyer of the school using bark from a 140-year-old birch tree. The 12-foot vessel will be made from birchbark, cedar, ash, ironwood, and spruce root. After the canoe is constructed, Commanda will coat it with a mixture of spruce gum and bear fat to make it waterproof. 

“Building the canoe is part of the healing and reconciliation process with Indigenous peoples,” says Student Success Teacher Blake Seward, who is helping with the project. “We are sharing the experience and showing our students about Indigenous culture and practices.”

During the two-week construction, various classes will take part in areas of the project and project offshoots. Media arts students will be gathering images to produce a video; math classes will be learning about area, width, length, aerodynamics, and parabola; and visual arts students will be creating a painting based on the project. Commanda and wife Janet, his partner on the project, will also be speaking with the Grade 11 Indigenous English class about Algonquin culture.

The build will culminate October 12 when the school plans to have a test paddle of the canoe on the Rideau Canal in Smiths Falls. The boat will be donated to St. Lawrence College for use in an Indigenous display. 

For media enquiries, please contact: 

Blake Seward
Student Success Teacher
Smiths Falls District Collegiate Institute

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