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Cheviot School Students Build and Test Canoe

It’s one thing to learn about Native American culture, but another to build a canoe from scratch! Thanks to a unique partnership with Urban Wilderness Program, Cheviot School students brought classroom lessons to life. 

Crystal McFarland, who teaches fifth and sixth-grade gifted social studies and math at the school, believes that hands-on education creates better experiences for students and their families. 

“I feel like kids learn more when they’re involved in the process, more than reading about it,” said McFarland. 

She wanted to give her students an outdoor learning experience since it tied to their curriculum on Native American culture and how they relied on canoes for transportation and the importance of buoyancy.  

Using the school’s stage, 27 students got to work. Over the course of a week, students were bending wood, screwing pieces together and lacing up seats. They also burned their names into the oars and added the Cheviot School logo to the middle of the canoe. 

Once the canoe was finished, students put their work to the test. McFarland organized a school field trip to the Little Miami River at Otto Armleder Memorial Park in Linwood. Urban Wilderness Program provided extra canoes so each student could experience the thrill of the water.   

In addition to launching canoes, McFarland said “We had some kids learning how to fish up on the shore just north of where the kids were canoeing. They also got to chop wood, build fires and cook quesadillas over the fires. The kids were excited. Each kid had a different thing that they liked.”

McFarland and her fellow teachers plan to expand upon the project next year – making it available to all fifth-grade students. McFarland plans to auction off the canoe to help pay for next year’s field trip. 

“You have to get kids involved in their education and their learning. You have to get them excited. When you engage them, they are more likely to remember the content that’s coming with it.”

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In the Waters